With a new school year right around the corner, campus safety is a huge focus in Texas. In the aftermath of the Santa Fe High School shooting massacre in May, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick established the Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Safety, which held multiple hearings over the past two months and has now released its final report on recommendations for improving school safety across the state. The recommendations include adding more mental health resources for students, and increasing funding and training for school marshal programs, which allow trained school staff members to carry firearms on campus.
Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) chaired the bipartisan committee, and recently spoke about its mission during an address to the League City Chamber of Commerce. He told the audience there is no easy solution that can apply to all schools. "They're all unique, they're all different, there's not a magic silver bullet where we say here's what we're gonna do and it's going to make all of our schools secure...every one of them is different," said Taylor.
Taylor does believe that focusing on the root cause of school violence should be a priority, which is why troubled students need more access to counselors and resources. "It's not necessarily mental illness that's driving these kids, a lot of it is emotional illness," he said. "You can't just diagnose them as schizophrenic or bipolar or some of these other things...they have emotional issues."
Another area of focus by the committee was improving law enforcement response to a violent incident. "Quick response is of the ultimate importance," said Taylor. "In Santa Fe we were fortunate (police) got there very quickly, but still there were 10 dead and 13 wounded...what if they had cut that response time by a minute or two, we could have saved more lives."
The committee's recommendations largely mirror the school safety plan issued by Gov. Greg Abbott after the Santa Fe shooting. The committee discussed, but ultimately did not include recommending, so-called "red flag" laws, which can remove firearms from certain people who are deemed a threat or mentally unstable. The committee did propose clarifying existing state law about access to firearms for certain classes of convicted criminals.