Moment of Silence as Gun Violence Roundtable is Organized

Students from several school field trips were at the state capitol Monday morning.

At 10:00 many stopped what they were doing and took part in a moment of silence. The observance was requested by governor Greg Abbott to honor those lost and hurt by the attack Friday at Santa Fe High School. Larissa Lutz, from Franklin High School, stood quietly with several of her students.

"Just thinking about everybody, praying for them, praying for god that nothing happens to my kids or our school like that,” said Lutz.

The focus now is shifting to building something more complicated. A solution.

Staff members for Abbott spent Monday afternoon finalizing details for his upcoming roundtable discussion on gun violence.  Managers of a program pointed out by Abbott last week were among the first to get a seat at the table.

"I know he believes we can do a lot of things to make schools safer,” said Texas Tech Professor Dr. Billy Philips.

Dr. Philips leads a school violence prevention program developed at the university. It’s called Twitr; which is the abbreviation for telemedicine, wellness, intervention, triage and referral.

"And I believe, that had we had that program operational in Santa Fe that we certainly would have identified, that young man, would had been identified, and probably screen and gotten some dispositional care,” said Dr. Philips.

The program incorporates the concept of telemedicine. Computers are used to link up people in rural areas to medical specialist. Twitr provides immediate psychiatric counseling to troubled junior high and high school students. They are initially identified by school staff, who are trained to look for signs of high risk or emotional distress.

"In one case we moved within the hour of the encounter, we can move it very fast. the real question is, is it fast enough,” said Dr. Philips.

The program is currently used in 10 NW Texas school districts close to the Tech campus. Since it began in 2014;

More than 400 referrals have been made. Two hundred and fifteen cases resulted in tele med care.  As a result, 44 were put into alternative placement.  Thirty-eight were provided hospital care and 25 students were removed from school.  Researchers say students helped by twitr had a 17% reduction in truancy.  A 3.6% increase in grades and a 25% reduction in disciplinary action.

"Most of the kids get funneled into an appropriate care for their circumstance,” said Dr. Philips.

Dr. Philips says the Twitr program can be adopted statewide; either managed by Texas Tech or run through regional services. Funding that will be up to state lawmakers.

There was also an unexpected benefit to the Twitr program. Researchers found that students were more comfortable opening up with it, because it did not involve a traditional face to face meeting with a counselor. Dr. Philip's says he is scheduled to make a presentation to the governor's round table on Wednesday.

Tuesday, 23 people will participate in the first day of the roundtable.    They include state lawmakers, school officials- an architect - who specializes in school design. The FBI, law enforcement officials from Round Rock and Hays County, as well as experts in mass shooting events.
State Rep. Chris turner ( D ) Arlington who is the head of the Texas House Democratic Caucus sent the governor a letter today asking to be included in the roundtable. In the letter he also pointed out that democrats during the last session filed 16-gun regulation bills and only 1 passed. The one that passed expanded gun charges to anyone making a threat to bring a gun to school or on a bus.

Democratic Caucus letter to the Governor --

Listing of democratic gun bills --