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Relating to policies, procedures, and measures for school safety and mental health promotion in public schools.
Estimated Two-year Net Impact to General Revenue Related Funds for SB11, Committee Report 2nd House, Substituted: a negative impact of ($530,595,303) through the biennium ending August 31, 2021.
This analysis assumes that the school safety allotment would be set at $50 per student in average daily attendance. However, costs associated with the allotment could be higher or lower, depending on the allotment amount established by appropriation.
Provisions of the bill related to Junior Colleges are expected to have costs. However, these costs cannot be determined at this time.
The Texas Education Agency, Texas School Safety Center, and Local Mental Health Authorities would be required to implement a provision of this Act only if the legislature appropriates money specifically for that purpose. If the legislature does not appropriate money specifically for that purpose, those entities may, but would not be required to, implement a provision of this Act using other appropriations available for that purpose.
The bill would make no appropriation but could provide the legal basis for an appropriation of funds to implement the provisions of the bill.
SB 11 is this session's omnibus school safety bill and attempts to accomplish two tasks in regard to school safety: (1) promoting school safety and (2) promoting student mental health. This bill would require the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to create rules to ensure building standards for school facilities promote a safe and secure environment. This would need to include design and construction for new facilities as well as improvement, renovation, and retrofitting of existing facilities. School districts would be required to develop their own campus safety plans to be submitted to the Texas School Safety Center. If the plan is not up to the center's standards or if the district fails to deliver a plan, the TEA would be able to force the district to have a public hearing on their plan. The commissioner could eventually appoint a conservator or replace the board if the district continues to not comply with the Center's standards.
This bill would also require local mental health authorities to employ a mental health professional to be a resource for school districts. Their job would be to help school personnel gain a better understanding of mental health, assist to implement initiatives related to mental health or substance abuse, and to provide training. A school district would not be required to participate in training. Local mental health authorities would be required to compile a report to the Health and Human Services Commission regarding outcomes of the program. The commission would be required to submit their own report to the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Additionally, SB 11 would expand emergency response training for district employees, including substitute teachers, and establish threat assessment teams to determine the best ways to intervene before they become violent. Funds for retrofitting vehicles and buses could be raised in bond elections.
SB 11 also reforms the make up of the School Safety and Security Committees for each district, requiring members be of certain professions or backgrounds. Committees would be required to meet once every semester and once during the summer, or three times a year in total. The committees would also be required to provide recommendations to the district's board and administrators. In addition, school districts would be required to create threat assessment teams at each campus to identify individuals who make threats of violence or exhibit threatening behavior. Each district would also be required to create a committee to oversee the threat assessment teams at each campus.
School districts would be able to opt out of training provided by the mental health professional. School boards would be required to develop and determine the content of a curriculum for healthy relationship education to promote relationship, communication, and decision making skills. School district peace officers would be required to undergo a training and education program, removing the requirement that they had to be employed by a school district of 30,000 or more students.
SB 11 also requires that the commissioner of the TEA to provide a school safety allotment to school districts that is appropriated for that purpose. These funds could only be used to improve current structures and technology, employ school district peace officers, and provide resources for drills.
This bill would also require the threat assessment and safe and supportive school team established at each school, after determining that a student or other individual poses a serious risk of violence to self or others, to immediately report to the superintendent. The superintendent would immediately attempt to inform the parent or person standing in parental relation to the individual if the individual is a student.
Texas Action remains neutral on SB 11. It is a legitimate function and responsibility of the government to provide for the safety and security of the students and employees of public schools. This bill is a good first step towards that goal. We have some concerns regarding the privacy of students when they are being monitored by the Threat Assessment Teams.
We are concerned that the bill lacks specific guidelines for the way threat assessment teams and individual members of threat assessment teams interact with students. Absent a specific statutory prohibition, a threat assessment team could conceivably seek to interview or question a student without the permission of the student's parents or guardians.
We understand that current models of threat assessment teams used by some school districts require the teams to alert the parents once a tip was received about their child, and we recommend amending the bill to codify this practice and specifically prohibit a threat assessment team or team member from interviewing or questioning a student without parental consent.
Also, while this is already current law, we recommend that for clarity the bill be amended to stipulate that mental health services may not be provided to a student without the consent of the student's parent or guardian, and that no adverse action may be taken against a student or the student's parents or guardian for refusal of mental health services.