Wednesday, the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Dade Phelan, said he supported several bills to make schools safer.
One of these bills would require districts to plan how to handle an active shooter.
The bill, which also increases funding for mental health services, has become one of the most well-known ways for lawmakers to respond to the Texas school shooting that killed the most people.
Nine months ago, a gunman in Uvalde killed 19 kids and two teachers. Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian, wrote House Bill 13.
Phelan said it was one of his top priorities on Wednesday evening, along with other bills that aim to help teachers more, give retired teachers a cost-of-living adjustment, and hire more school safety officers.
Phelan said in a written statement announcing his support for HB 13, “The active shooter plan would clarify the chain of command for active shooter events to ensure continuity between school officials and law enforcement, designating points of contact during such emergencies.”
Since the shooting at Robb Elementary School, more information has come out that shows there wasn’t a transparent chain of command and that law enforcement didn’t talk to each other well.
The Texas Tribune, ProPublica, and the Washington Post investigation found that some lives might have been saved if first responders had moved faster that day.
As part of the required active-shooter plans, districts must send each campus’s Texas Education Agency maps, let law enforcement agencies walk through all buildings, and list the costs needed to meet the state’s safety standards.
Phelan also said he favored House Bill 3, which would require every campus in the state to have at least one armed security officer.
Phelan said that the bill tries to make the roles of TEA and the Texas School Safety Center the same.
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The Texas School Safety Center is a think tank at Texas State University that lawmakers set up in 2001 to study how school safety measures are implemented.
All of the top Republicans in the state have said that school safety is their top priority. Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said this was one of their top priorities for the legislative session.
Still, even after the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School, many Republicans are against any significant changes to gun laws.
Even though it will be hard, Democratic lawmakers are still trying to make it harder for people to get guns.
Since the Uvalde shooter’s history of bad behavior, many lawmakers have been working to improve the state’s troubled mental health system.
After the mass shooting, lawmakers said that the state’s telemedicine system for mental health should be made easier to use and that there should be more professionals in the field.
Senators passed a bill Wednesday morning that would close a hole in state law that let people between the ages of 16 and 18 involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness buy guns.
Sen. Robert Nichols, a Republican from Jacksonville, filed a bill last week that would do the same thing.
It would require districts to set up safety plans for active-shooter situations and create a safety and security department within TEA.
If HB 13 passes, school staff must take a mental health first aid course. Phelan said this could help teachers and administrators spot early signs of a student’s trouble.
Schools would also get $100 per student to improve safety and security. However, the bill would eliminate the language of how these funds can be used.
Instead, if the bill passes, the Texas School Safety Center will publish a list of approved vendors for school districts to use when buying technology and equipment.
Phelan also supported House Bill 11, which would make changes to the minimum wage and make it easier for teachers in Texas to get child care.
Phelan supports House Bill 600, which would give eligible retired teachers a cost-of-living adjustment starting in 2024.
“Ensuring that Texas children are safe in classrooms is a priority that the Texas House will take meaningful action on this year, along with passing measures that better support our teachers — beginning with recruitment and ending with retirement,” Phelan said.
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