This is the first in a series of articles that will explain how new security-related legislation impacts schools.
Schools are not immune to the devastation of emergencies that have affected Texas in recent years. Incidents such as school shootings and severe-weather events have inspired legislators to tackle emergency preparedness for schools head on.
During the 86th Legislative Session, lawmakers passed a series of bills promoting school safety and security. The most prominent piece of legislation was Senate Bill (SB) 11. The comprehensive bill emphasizes collaboration and mental health, and several tactics for shoring up districts’ emergency operations plans.
With SB 11, schools are required to:
Develop threat assessment teams
School boards must establish and develop procedures for a team responsible for threat assessment and support for each campus. The team is responsible for creating support systems to address students’ social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health through multiagency collaboration. Team members should have expertise in areas such as mental health, safety, law enforcement, special education, and classroom management. They will assess risks and threats in their respective schools and provide students with the appropriate intervention to support their needs.
Incorporate notifications of risk to parents
Districts must develop provisions for school officials to notify parents about risks involving their children and to seek consent from parents before students undergo mental health screening or receive mental health services.
Offer mental health support and education
The student health advisory council must develop a curriculum for health classes that addresses mental health support and conditions. The curriculum must teach skills for managing emotions, establishing and maintaining positive relations, making responsible decisions, and preventing suicide, which includes recognizing suicide-related risk factors and warning signs.
Districts must establish a Trauma-Informed Care Policy and methods to increase staff and parent awareness of its benefits and principles. Trauma-informed care is an informed practice of care that includes understanding and responding to the effect of all types of trauma. The Texas Education Agency offers training and resources, as well as counseling options for students affected by trauma and grief.
In addition, education service centers and the Texas Education Agency have been asked to identify regional resources for training and technical assistance on practices for the mental health of students, faculty, and staff.
Emergency operations plan updates
The Texas Legislature made many changes to districts’ required all-hazard emergency operations plans. These changes include but are not limited to:
- Include prevention as a phase of emergency management. Now, district emergency operations plans will address preparedness, response, recovery, mitigation, and prevention.
- Address employee and substitute teacher training, communication, and information sharing related to emergency procedures.
- Outline procedures for internal and external communication, including multiple methods of communication and technological infrastructure.
- Address the chain of command and lines of succession for decision-making.
- Outline procedures for physical and psychological safety during natural and human-caused disasters.
- Take into account students, faculty, and staff in portable or temporary buildings.
- Outline procedures for protecting students, faculty, and staff who have disabilities.
- Include school safety and security committee member names and the date of each committee meeting.
School safety and security committee
To enhance the collaborative process, SB 11 expands school safety and security committee membership to include, at minimum, local emergency management, local law enforcement, local fire department, local EMS, the board president, board members, the superintendent or designee, one classroom teacher, and at least two parents who have children enrolled in the district. The committee must meet at least three times per year (summer, spring, and fall) and is subject to the open meetings act, including relevant exceptions.
Learn more from our experts
Are you interested in learning more about these requirements? If you are a Fund member, email us or call 800.482.7276 to access our recorded webinar titled New Requirements for Safety and Security: What Administrators Need to Know. For additional information on school safety and security or help with an emergency operations plan, contact Emergency Management and School Security Consultant Melanie Moss.