AUSTIN, Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - Governor Greg Abbott was in this same room where a year ago, he held meetings on ways to improve school safety, on Thursday morning. Now, with a bold stroke from a black marker, the Governor finalized several key parts of that process.
"Senate Bill 11 making schools safer is now law in the state of Texas,” declared Governor Abbott.
The legislation was prompted by the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in May of last year. 8 students and 2 teachers were killed. More than a dozen were injured in the attack. "We can never erase the pain that this tragedy has caused but we can act to make our schools safer,” said Abbott.
Back in January, during his State of the State Address the Governor made school safety one of his Emergency Items. It forced Texas lawmakers to confront the gun violence crisis.
"What this legislation will do is, it will put into place structure and organization within our schools to make them safer, but also creates accountability,” said State Rep. Greg Bonnen ( R) Friendswood.
A total of three bills were signed by the Governor Thursday. SB 11. HB 18. HB 1387.
They create new safety enhancements and mental health programs. The measures include; threat assessments with funding for improvements, removing the cap on how many School Marshals can be on a campus, additional staff training to identify kids at risk of acting out with violence, and setting up regional tele-medicine networks linking counselors directly into schools.
"I heard from so many teachers, parents, and pediatricians that they just didn't know where to go, they needed more than what was available to them. And this Bill will help us address that,” said State Sen. Jane Nelson ( R ) Flower Mound.
The superintendent for Santa Fe ISD and the school board president, Rusty Norman, attended the ceremony at the capitol. "This is a good start, this is an excellent start, we asked for help we said the unfortunate truth of the matter is you cannot put a price on a child's safety, on your staff's safety, but at the same time we have to work within the means we are given,” said Norman.
The immediate need, according to Norman, is time to heal.
The school safety package does not include any gun control. The idea was discussed during the Session but nothing was passed out. Things like, making it a crime for failing to report a stolen gun. And Red Flag laws, which makes it easier for Courts to confiscate weapons from people deemed to be a threat. FOX7 asked the Governor if those ideas were a next step for lawmakers.
"Right now its not necessary in the state of Texas we think the best approach is what we passed in the combination of these Bills,” said Governor Abbott.
Senator Royce West (D) Dallas agreed the first step was to focus on mental health. But he also warned the threat is not limited to schools.
"It’s happened in all of our institutions and we in Texas need to get ahead of it and provide some best practices, not just for Texas but the rest of the country,” said Senator West.
The cost for this comprehensive school safety package is a little more than $300 million. With about $100 million coming out of the rainy day fund.