Abbott to unveil school safety plan after Santa Fe shooting


Highlights

Governor’s policy announcement follows three days of discussions about gun violence last week.

One of Gov. Greg Abbott’s events will be in Hays County, home of a school-safety program he has praised.

Responding to the May 18 attack that left 10 dead at Santa Fe High School, Gov. Greg Abbott plans to unveil policies aimed at reducing gun violence in schools during two events Wednesday in Dallas and San Marcos.

Abbott’s announcement gave no details about his proposals beyond noting that the Dallas event will start at 10:30 a.m., followed by a 2 p.m. event at the Hays County Law Enforcement Center — an apparent nod to a county school-safety program Abbott highlighted during three days of roundtable discussions at the Capitol last week.

The Abbott-led discussions provided more than 100 suggestions from educators, law officers, security experts, politicians and survivors of mass shootings from Santa Fe and a November attack at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs near San Antonio.

RELATED: As Abbott weighs gun violence proposals, cost will be an issue

Abbott said last week that the suggestions would be honed into a prioritized action plan, but the governor also spoke positively about several recommendations, including:

• Hiring more school counselors to focus on behavioral issues and crisis intervention in all grade levels.

• Creating mental health screening programs in schools, including training teachers to identify students who might pose a threat to themselves or others.

• Improving access to mental health care for students inside and outside of school.

• Expanding the state school marshal program, which trains teachers and school employees in how to carry a weapon and respond to emergencies.

• Requiring schools and local law enforcement to create detailed action plans in case of a shooting.

• Upgrading school entrances and exits to improve security, including providing metal detectors in some schools.

• Training students, teachers and staff about how best to relay information about suspicious student activity.

Wednesday’s event in San Marcos is significant because Abbott heaped praise on a school safety program created by the Hays County sheriff’s office, saying it should be shared with schools statewide.

Begun in 2013, the program includes a safety video shown each year to students, faculty and staff in the county’s districts; mock emergency calls for an active shooter; comprehensive planning between law officers and school officials; training on how to secure entrances and exits; and increased police presence on campuses.

RELATED: Intense, tearful meeting with shooting survivors ends Abbott gun talks

Hays County sheriff’s Lt. Jeri Skrocki, who attended the discussion, said Abbott gave her “marching orders” to share the program with Texas State University’s Texas School Safety Center so the ideas can be developed for use statewide. Abbott also said his office was looking into providing the center with a grant to help cover the costs.

One of last week’s roundtable discussions included representatives of both sides of the gun control debate. Afterward, Abbott said there was no consensus on proposals to require background checks before private gun sales. The governor also said further discussion was needed on whether to expand the use of “red flag” protective orders — which allow a judge to order that guns be confiscated and can include a ban on firearm ownership for a period of time — to address mental health concerns.

The only gun-related laws Abbott endorsed were stronger requirements for reporting lost or stolen firearms and requiring judges to more quickly report court orders that deny people access to guns for safety reasons.

Abbott also said he saw potential in ways to hold parents more accountable for children who bring weapons to school, though he did not discuss specifics. Authorities have said the Santa Fe shooter used two guns owned by his father in the attack.



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