The 2019 legislative session saw a renewed push for resources for student mental health and well-being in response to the charge to promote school safety. Districts are now required to incorporate digital citizenship into the curriculum, including the criminal consequences of cyberbullying. Though some money was allocated for districts to voluntarily add new security measures to their facilities, the approach the Texas Legislature took was to focus on personnel and students.
In addition to the teacher training outlined here, school districts also must establish threat assessment teams to serve each campus. These teams will evaluate threats and individuals and determine the appropriate intervention, which may include referral to mental health services. Threat assessment teams are separate and distinct from those that handle discipline.
In 2019, lawmakers added $100 million in one-time funding to the school finance formulas for districts to choose to use in several ways, including establishing or funding school-based mental health centers or hiring more counselors.
As part of a multihazard emergency operations plan, districts must adopt policies for responding to active-shooter emergencies. The plan also must ensure that employees have classroom access to a phone or other electronic communication device allowing for immediate contact with emergency responders. School districts that fail to submit a multihazard emergency operations plan to the Texas School Safety Center may have a conservator appointed by the commissioner of education. The conservator is authorized to order the district to adopt, implement and submit a plan, and the commissioner is authorized to appoint a board of managers if the district fails to comply with the conservator’s order.
Further discussions of school safety are expected during the 2023 session in response to the mass shooting in Uvalde.