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School safety, 'A top priority this legislative session'

Posted at 6:39 PM, Mar 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-21 19:40:20-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A child's safety and well-being are usually a parent's top priority. However, in recent times it's also been a concern for parents when they send their kids to school.

Especially for Texans, like mother-of-two Brooke Griffin.

One of her sons is currently in kindergarten.

Safety is also on Christopher Elizaldi's mind. He's a father of five.

Neither will ever forget the state's deadliest school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

"There's just so much going on now with the school shootings and everything," said Griffin. "The world is just getting crazier every day."

"I want my babies to come home every day. I don't want to have to worry about them being hurt in any way especially when they're supposed to be safe at school." Elizaldi replied.

School leaders, like the Travis Fanning, the Superintendent of Schools at Beeville are hoping to put some parent's minds at ease.

"I tell parents each and every day, they send to us their most prized possession and so our number one priority is to make sure their most prized possession returns back home to them each and every single day." he said.

With five campuses, serving more than 3,000 kids and teens in the small town, Fanning said they've always taken proactive measures to keep students safe. Fanning said they have regular meetings and collaborate with police. In addition, law enforcement is on site at schools. Staff keeps track of everyone coming inside the buildings with the use of security vestibules where people check in. Students and employees also have to carry identification and there is a policy which requires people on site to use clear bags that display contents inside. Doors are also locked at the exterior of each building, which is a requirement by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).

Click here to learn more about Beeville ISD's safety measures.

All of the top GOP leaders in the Lone Star State have said they are focusing on school safety. Governor Greg Abbott has mentioned the issue is one of his top priorities this legislative session.

Many bills regarding school safety have been getting in front of our law makers in Austin, Texas, including House Bill 13. It would require school districts to adopt an active-shooter preparedness plan. A special team would have to be formed and they would make policies to clarify procedures for emergency incidents. School districts would also be required to work closely with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and local law enforcement, who would walk through buildings and lay out costs necessary to meet the state's established safety standards.

There's also House Bill 3, which relates to the development and implementation of funding for public school safety and security requirements. Some of its actions include mandating the presence of at least on armed security officer during school hours.

Senate Bill 728 was passed on Wednesday. It was the first bill passed by the Senate this year. If it is signed into law it would crack down on courts, requiring them to report all involuntary mental health hospitalizations to the Department of Public Safety, for juveniles 16 and older. Last year, a ProPublica and Texas Tribune investigation found revealed that information about mental health hospitalizations of juveniles age 16 and older were not being reported by county and district courts due to problems with the way the state law was written and vague guidance from the state. The Department of Public Safety sends those records to the FBI's National Firearms Background Check System.

Superintendent Fanning said he appreciates the efforts from state lawmakers, however, he believes funding continues to be a challenge.

"What I'm hopeful is with some of these new bills that are coming out is that they really take a look at some of the smaller school districts, our rural communities and the shape of our buildings and what we need in order to enhance and keep our students safe." he added.

KRIS 6 News will be tracking the bills progress and many others during the legislative session.