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Texas Lawmakers Propose More School Security Spending

A new Senate committee report suggests allocating more money to campus security technology, a public awareness campaign for the state's anonymous reporting system, and training more school marshals to prevent shootings.

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(TNS) — Lawmakers should expand the school marshal program, revisit truancy reforms and allocate more money to campus safety, according to a Senate report on how to make Texas schools safer after the massacre in Uvalde.

The state should also funnel more resources to promoting an anonymous threat reporting tool that few districts use, the special Senate committee also suggested.

But only one new gun restriction was recommended – making straw purchases a state crime – and the senators remained divided on raising the age of purchase of assault-style weapons, such as the gun used by the 18-year-old gunman to carry out the massacre.

The nearly 100-page December report from the committee – convened after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers in Texas’ deadliest school shooting – made recommendations touching on school safety, mental health, social media, police training and firearm safety.

The question of how to prevent another massacre like the one at Robb Elementary is likely to fuel much of the debate in Austin when lawmakers return for the legislative session next month.

State senators believe key approaches should include providing funds to “harden” campuses, arming additional staff and revisiting how schools discipline children, according to the report.


Texas lawmakers are divided on raising the age of purchase for an assault style weapon from 18 to 21, which is reflected in the report.

The teenager who carried out the Robb Elementary School shooting had purchased a semi-automatic long gun days after his 18th birthday. But any movement to address the age requirement had “a strong lack of consensus” among the committee members, the report stated.

Instead, it recommends that local law enforcement have the authority to go after so-called straw purchases.

The committee report recommended making it a crime for a third party to purchase firearms for someone prohibited from owning a gun. Straw purchases are already illegal under federal law. But testimony before the committee indicated that federal law enforcement only prosecutes roughly 2 percent of straw purchases.

The report recommended mirroring the federal law in state code to empower local law enforcement and state police to investigate and prosecute those crimes. The offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said in his letter to the committee that he “strongly supports” the recommendation.


Texas allows school employees to carry guns on campuses through a marshal program, but it’s not widely adopted.

There are currently 279 appointed school marshals in Texas, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. They are allowed in public school districts, private schools and community colleges.

The Senate committee members urge lawmakers to improve the program and resolve its capacity restraints.

They suggested the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement expand training across the state by adding more providers and offering sessions several times a year so that more schools can participate.

The Legislature should also consider expanding the list of people who are eligible to become a marshal, according to the report, including by loosening requirements for who is allowed to carry.

“Currently, school marshals must have a valid license to carry,” it reads. “The Legislature should consider adding retired peace officers and honorably discharged veterans who do not have a license to carry to that list.”


Creating School Safety Review Teams tasked with checking campus vulnerabilities on a semiannual basis would help ensure buildings are secure, the report suggests.

Districts need more money to improve campus security, school leaders have said in the months since Uvalde.

The report suggests doing so by expanding the state’s School Safety and Security Grant program, which could pay for things like updated fencing, security cameras, metal detectors and other similar projects.

Districts receive a school safety allotment that comes out to $9.72 per student. The report suggests lawmakers consider increasing that amount to better account for the cost of security improvements. It did not provide a specific amount. But Dallas ISD has asked, for example, for the allotment to be bumped up to at least $200.

“Current funding mechanisms do not reflect the basic costs of securing a campus no matter how many students attend on a daily basis,” it reads. “The legislature should consider an allotment that reflects the needs of each campus to hire or train personnel, purchase and maintain technology, or other school infrastructure measures.”


Lawmakers could consider bringing back some zero tolerance policies and disciplinary practices that child advocates say often disproportionately adversely impact Black and Latino kids.

The report suggests revisiting recent reforms related to truancy and discipline that Texas spent years rolling back.

Since 2013, legislators curbed the practice of ticketing students for low-level misdemeanors in schools and banned out-of-school suspensions for students younger than third grade in all but the most serious cases.

They also decriminalized truancy. Previously, Texas children and teenagers who missed too much school were subject to steep fines and, in some cases, jail time.

These issues came up in the context of Uvalde because the shooter often missed school, becoming chronically absent in sixth grade.

The lawmakers heard from some district leaders who warned the new truancy process lacks teeth.

“The legislature should consider improvements to truancy law allowing districts more authority and options to handle truant students, including but not limited to mandatory home visits by school district personnel for chronically truant students or mandatory meetings with the school for parents or guardians,” the report states.

In a letter attached to the report, West urged caution in rolling back reforms.

“It is not appropriate or necessary that we dismantle the entirety of the current truancy system to make it functional,” he wrote. “I heard and understood the complaints of superintendents concerning the current law, and believe we can make the current construction less complicated, without recriminalizing any conduct we had previously decriminalized surrounding truancy.”

The senators urged lawmakers to revamp state law on discipline, saying the way it’s currently structured “no longer serves students or the community.”

For example, student discipline records should follow a child if they move from district to district, the report suggests.

“This would allow administrators and teachers to identify students who may pose a threat to the community they are moving into,” the report reads.


The lawmakers also want to see greater public awareness of iWatchTexas, the state’s anonymous threat reporting system.

The Dallas Morning News previously reported that, even though the state is spending millions of dollars on iWatchTexas, it is largely unused and unproven.

The Senate report acknowledges that it is not very popular. Last year, for example, iWatchTexas fielded roughly 300 school-safety reports in a state home to more than 5 million schoolchildren.

“DPS believes this is a very low number considering the number of school districts in Texas,” the report reads.

School district-specific anonymous reporting systems had much more success. For example, a different tool called STOPit has fielded 40,000 tips in Texas in the past five years.

The committee suggested the Department of Public Safety expand and enhance iWatchTexas and that school districts be encouraged to use it even though many already use other tools that administrators say fit their needs.

“The Legislature should grant DPS resources necessary to engage with experts in the staging of a statewide public awareness campaign for iWatchTexas and to ensure that it can address the reporting volume of a fully realized iWatch platform,” it reads.

The report also made several other recommendations including:

  • Requiring all police officers to undertake active shooter training under a Texas State University program considered the “gold standard” among law enforcement. School-based police officers should get the training as soon as possible.

  • Law enforcement agencies share emergency operations plans.

  • Fund and monitor the statewide expansion of a telemedicine mental health program for schools called Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine.

  • Internships, loan repayment programs and other initiatives to encourage growth in social services in Texas, including programs for rural mental health and medicine.

©2022 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.