By State Rep. Brooks Landgraf
Governor Greg Abbott recently released his “School and Firearm Safety Action Plan,” and I applaud our governor for working diligently in the wake of the Santa Fe High shooting to present actionable items. I’d like to offer my perceptive on parts of his plan.
Students in Texas schools must be protected from the horrific violence that we saw last month at Santa Fe. There are several ways we can help do this at the state level, but I want to be clear that I don’t believe that infringing upon the Second Amendment rights of responsible, law-abiding Texans will do anything to protect our students or make schools safer.
From my perspective, we must be better able to identify and neutralize potential threats and enhance and expand campus security. After reading Gov. Abbott’s plan, I found two proposals particularly helpful in pursuing this objective.
The first proposal that drew my attention is one that would provide mental health evaluations that identify students at risk of harming others and to provide those individuals with the help they need. Specifically, Governor Abbott has recommended expanding access to the Telemedicine Wellness Intervention Triage & Referral (TWITR) Project that was developed by the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
The TWITR Project is already in use in several school districts north of here, and it has created a model for identifying students at risk for committing school violence, then intervening with those students before they commit horrendous acts of violence. Currently, in school districts where the TWITR Project has been implemented, students are identified by trained school staff and screened for risk-based behaviors by licensed professionals, then if needed, they’re provided with appropriate mental-health services.
In my view, this proposal could help stop a problem before it really starts. I also believe it is important to conduct this project while respecting parental consent and patients’ rights.
The second proposal that attracted my attention in the governor’s plan is one that would expand and enhance the school-marshal program.
Specifically, Governor Abbott has recommended that we in the Texas Legislature should improve the program requirements and focus the training components in such a way that will increase the number of school marshals in Texas and also improve school marshals’ ability to quickly and effectively respond to an active shooter. The school-marshal program has been underutilized across the state, in part, because current Texas law imposes restrictive burdens on the program’s willing volunteers.
To better utilize the school-marshal program, Governor Abbott proposes that school marshals, from a variety of areas of experience, be appropriately background-checked and trained to respond swiftly to save lives in an active-shooter scenario. Improvements in the school-marshal program would likely lead to overall improvement in campus safety and security on a daily basis.
In my view, this proposal better equips schools to effectively address a threat when it occurs and provides for better on-campus security.
There are several other proposals that Governor Abbott has made in his plan, and I’m carefully evaluating those recommendations as well. However, I believe that the two proposals I’ve discussed above are urgently needed and could be incredibly helpful in fulfilling our goal of protecting the lives of Texas students.
If you’d like to read Gov. Abbott’s plan yourself, you can find it here: https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/School_Safety_Action_Plan_05302018.pdf.
This is a difficult task, but I’m honored you’ve entrusted me with the responsibility to help address this problem, while also protecting Texans’ constitutional rights.
God bless Texas!