DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed several bills Thursday to make schools safer and increase mental health services for students.
The signing ceremony at the Capitol came more than one year after the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston. Eight students and two substitute teachers died.
Governor Abbott said, “After the horrific shooting in Santa Fe and the subsequent school safety roundtables, I made school safety an emergency item to help prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.”
In a one-on-one interview in Dallas, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said the new legislation will increase training for teachers and other educators to identify students in need and then connect them to experts.
“We don’t have enough trained child psychologists or child psychiatrists quite frankly to fill the need in the entire state. There just aren’t that many licensed. So we’re setting up a consortium through our health-related schools and universities so we can at least have teleconferencing.”
Dallas ISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa praised lawmakers for taking action.
“I think this is very key and we’re very supportive of it because this is really where every one of the incidents that have occurred have been signals of mental health and people weren’t readily trained to identify those,” he said.
School districts must also establish better protocols to assess threats.
Hinojosa said he has met with Dallas city leaders and police to discuss this.
“It prepares us because we can exchange intelligence. Sometimes people at the city will identify a person who has reached out through social media that we may not be monitoring. Now that we have the committee, they immediately exchange information with us. We can get it to a counselor. We can go to talk to a parent and that family right away.”
The Lt. Governor though said school districts need to be careful and judicious so that they don’t just tag students as being troubled at an early age.
All told, he said state lawmakers spent $250 million, which will also include money to help harden schools to make it more difficult for a shooter to get in and for students and teachers to get out in an emergency.
Mr. Patrick said, “I said I don’t care what it takes, we’re going to spend whatever it takes to be sure no student is locked in a classroom again. It could be a fire, it could be a shower, it could be any emergency. The money is not the issue, it’s spending it right.”
WATCH FULL ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW WITH LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK