Following the killings at a high school in Minnesota Monday, the nation's attention is once again focused on the problem of violence in its public schools. Today, the Senate highlighted two bills intended to reduce the likelihood of an incident such as Red Lake High or Columbine happening in Texas. "It has become increasingly clear that we need a uniform procedure in every school district in the state to deter, detect, and respond to emergencies in our schools," said Lt. Governor David Dewhurst.
Senate Bill 11, by Palestine Senator Todd Staples, would create such procedures to increase school safety. SB 11 would require every school district in the state to formulate a multi-hazard emergency operation plan to prepare schools for any kind of violent emergency that could occur at a school. This plan would likely focus on increased training for school officials, teachers, and even students on how to respond to a violent incident involving weapons. SB 11 would also create design codes for new buildings to increase security, such as placing offices in central locations and devising more secure entryways. The major provision of the bill, according to its author, is a required security audit of all public schools every three years to ensure that districts comply with new security standards. "I think the audit is a key component that will make certain that it's timely and an issue that is looked at year in and year out in order to make sure the elements are there to make schools a safe place for our kids," said Staples.
The Senate passed today Senate Bill 152, entitled the Bullying Prevention Act, by Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini. "In two-thirds of school shootings the attackers at one point felt bullied and threatened and harassed," said Zaffirini, citing a report by the National Threat Assessment Center. "What we are trying to do is not only focus attention on the issue, but also doing something about it to ensure our school environments are safe for our children," she said. Zaffirini added that an estimated 160,000 students skip school each year out of fear of being bullied. SB 152 would require school districts to revise their school discipline management programs to include bullying prevention and education measures.
Elsewhere today, the Lieutenant Governor remains optimistic that the Senate will come up with a plan for school finance reform that will reduce property taxes at the same time that it increases funding for education. Responding to new questions about the House plan currently before the Senate, Dewhurst said "our budget will balance, our school finance plan will balance and our supplemental budget will balance."
The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, March 23rd, at 11:00 a.m.