Gov. Abbott to allocate $120 million to increase school safety plans

Abbott announces school safety proposal
Updated: May. 30, 2018 at 3:44 PM CDT
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DALLAS, TX (KCBD) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott has announced a plan he wants to implement before the next public school year. The plan would allocate $120 million in funding to enhance school safety measures.

Called the Governor's School and Firearm Safety Plan, Abbott put together this plan after three mostly private meetings with advocates, school administrators and victims of the Santa Fe school shooting, which happened on May 18 and took the lives of 10 people.  Abbott announced this plan at an 11 a.m. news conference on Wednesday in the Dallas ISD administration building.

Read Governor Abbott's School and Firearm Safety Action Plan.

"Therefore, you have much more meaning and support when you have more people that have a voice," Michael Hinojosa, superintendent of Dallas ISD, said during the news conference. "And there was definitely a voice in the meeting that I took part in."

The new plan is a 40-page document that lays out specific initiatives the governor recommends in order to increase school safety around campuses in the state. The hope is, Abbott said, that these initiatives would be implemented before the start of the upcoming fall semester.

The plan also includes plans that can be decided amongst legislators in the upcoming state legislative session.

"The plan includes more than $120 million in funding strategies to help schools implement these solutions immediately at no cost to the schools," Abbott said. "Going forward, some of the strategies will need additional funds appropriated by the legislature or additional allocations from the federal government."

The plan would include matching grants of up to $10,000 to train more school marshals on campuses. This would mean arming and training certain individuals to work as a different type of security within a school, he said. That would also go hand-in-hand with a plan to create more collaborative agreements with local law enforcement that would also set a place for a community officer to make patrol of the school a daily task if it is not already.

The plan also recommends installing active shooter alarms that would be different from fire alarms or tornado sirens. The alarm systems would create a distinctive way of letting students and staff know there is an active shooter on a campus.

"The confusion is dangerous. As a teacher explained to me yesterday, she said that, 'when the fire alarms went off in Santa Fe, it compelled teachers and students to react the way they were trained," Abbott said. "And that is to exit the hallway and try to exit the school. Well, as soon as they went in the hallway they encountered gunfire from the shooter."

The governor also recommended implementing, on a state-wide scale, a system that was developed in the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center within the last few years. The Telemedicine, Wellness, Intervention, Triage, and Referral (TWITR) system, developed mostly by Dr. Billy Philip of the HSC, helps in engaging in mental health services that would help in preventing campuses shootings.

The TWITR program works by family members, teachers or peers referring a student to the program who may pose a threat to themselves or others, Philips said during an interview with KCBD NewsChannel 11 in mid-April before the Santa Fe shooting, but after a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

"The kids and the teachers like the program because it gives them something to do for their friends and associates and others who seem troubled," Philips said. "It provides treatment options to prevent an act of violence and everything that is preventative is a safety option."

Abbott wants to make this a state-wide program and even had Philips at the table during the meetings that were hosted. The program is currently used at 12 school districts in West Texas.

"Last week, on May 23, it was announced that the program would be expanded to 12 additional school districts around the Amarillo area," Abbott said.

$20 million will be used to implement TWITR state-wide, he said.

The new plan would also create what are called fusion centers that would identify threats from social media and help law enforcement officials intervene before any type of violence occurs.

"It seems after every one of these mass shootings there were advanced warning signs that appeared on social media," Abbott said.

The issues discussed were not all of the points in the new plan, but did cover most of them. For the full news conference and specific details of some of the issues Abbott talked about, visit the Facebook Live coverage from KCBD below.

RELATED STORY: Turning to telemedicine to help prevent school shootings

RELATED STORY: Gov. Abbott wants to implement West Texas mental health program state-wide

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