Texas has enacted a law allowing more personnel to carry guns in schools and expanding threat assessment and campus security measures.
The law was enacted to address school violence in the wake of a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in 2018.
“We are proud to have responded to one of the most horrific days in the state of Texas,” Gov. Greg Abbott said after signing S.B. 11 and other school safety bills on June 6.
“We can never erase the pain that this tragedy caused, but we can act to make our schools safer,” Abbott said.
The May 18, 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School left eight students and two teachers dead.
Much More Than Guns
The new law includes multiple measures designed to increase campus security and the capability of schools to identify and respond to threats, says state Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington), who voted for the bill.
“We expanded the categories of employees allowed to conceal-carry on campus and require training in response to an emergency for district employees,” Zedler said. “Schools will be required to set up threat assessment teams and hold drills and exercises to prepare students and employees for responding to an emergency.”
The law, which applies to both traditional and charter public schools, increases voluntary access to mental health services for students and provides additional money for schools to improve campus security, says Zedler.
“The bill expands psychological evaluation of students for threat assessment, but no child can be required to undergo counseling without their parent’s permission,” Zedler said.
Advocates Child Safety Accounts
There is more to keeping students safe than threat assessment teams and concealed firearms, says Timothy Benson, a policy analyst at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.
“I honestly don’t know if arming teachers will reduce school shootings or the number of casualties per incident,” Benson said. “I hope it will.”
Empowering parents to remove their children from unsafe schools is the best solution for violence problems, says Benson.
“The best way for Texas, and all other states, to address school safety is by passing a universal child safety account (CSA) program,” Benson said.
“CSAs would allow parents to pay tuition and fees at qualified private schools,” Benson said. “They would also pay for tutoring services, textbooks, and transportation costs if their child is facing a safety issue at school. These issues would include bullying, sexual misconduct, harassment, verbal abuse, physical assaults on the student, and concerns over gang activity or drug use at school.”
Shootings Rare, Bullying Common
Although they are horrific, mass shootings in schools are uncommon. Most students who have safety problems at school face less-intense though still very serious issues, such as bullying and sexual harassment, which S.B. 11 does not address, Benson says.
“While tragic, school shootings like the one at Santa Fe are a rarity,” Benson said. “The best way to truly tackle student safety and mental health is by getting children into schools that best suit their unique needs.”
Ashley Herzog ([email protected]) writes from Avon Lake, Ohio.
Texas state Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington): https://house.texas.gov/members/member-page/?district=96