May 27, 2019 by

“My Response to Texas’ Public School Safety Bill”

By Donna Garner


Because the Texas Legislature only meets every two years, it was absolutely essential that the school safety measures in SB 11 be laid out to “harden” schools against being targets of violent behavior.  Such violence does not wait to happen until a more convenient time.

Here is the link to the final version of Texas SB 11 after the Senate and House conference report had been agreed upon:

I have read through the final bill and here are a few of my observations:

I am disappointed that the final bill says “written consent” (e.g., p. 46) rather than “informed consent.” [See Section 14, p. 9 — Conference-Committee Section-by-Section Analysis posted at the end of the SB 11 text.]  

It sounds to me as if SB 11 provides adequate funding for schools to make sure students who need mental health care are provided that support. [See LEGISLATIVE BUDGET BOARD, FISCAL NOTE, 86TH LEGISLATIVE REGULAR SESSION, 5.25.19 posted at the very end of the report.] 

The phrase “best practice-based programs and research-based practices” is used in various places in the bill. I trust that agreement can be reached by school safety and mental health care professionals as to what those practices are.

The bill has many checks, balances, reports, accountability, etc. – each level reporting to a higher level.  If implemented correctly, this bill (over time) seems to have good oversight and transparency mechanisms built into it.

Sec. 38.252, (a)(1) says “create school environments that support the social, emotional, and academic development of students.”  Adding “academic” is very important since that is the main purpose for our Texas schools.  

Sec. 38.254, (4)(A) says “methods of objectively measuring positive school climate.”  I like the word “objectively” – much better than subjective measurements that are based upon people’s emotions, feelings, and opinions.

Pp. 48 – 49, Sec. 113 . 0201, CHILD PSYCHIATRY WORKFORCE EXPANSION — There will be two full-time psychiatrists who will be available to schools to call upon for treating students. Psychiatric residents will also be doing rotations. Fellowships will be available. This gives the schools the support they so badly need to educate students with severe mental health issues.  

P. 49 –  Another level of accountability is required by the bill’s requiring a detailed biennial report produced by the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium to be sent to the Governor, Lt. Gov., Speaker of the House, etc.   

P. 50 – Parents are to be provided written reports on strategies that could be helpful to use with their children, and parents will also be provided lists and contact information of mental health care resources in the areas of Texas where they live.  

P. 52 – There is a well-articulated plan to implement the mental health care resources part of the bill starting with TEA’s sending out resource survey requests from ESC’s and then using those to formulate a state resources plan.  

P. 1, SECTION 8 in Conference-Committee Section-by-Section Analysis at the end of the bill contains significant information upon which evidently the Senate and House (IE) versions of the bill agreed. “Skills to manage emotions” is a good phrase (B)(ii) along with other descriptors that are to be taught in (B) health with emphasis on (i) physical health. [Please go to that section to read the list of descriptors.]

“Healthy relationship education” is sometimes defined in the bill as “healthy, age-appropriate relationships.” I like the addition of “age-appropriate.”  However, I would have much preferred that the phrase “age-appropriate, positive, and healthy relationships”  be used throughout the bill instead of the term “healthy relationships” which the LGBTQ community has adopted as its code word to support its dangerous and unhealthy lifestyle practices.  [See p. 3 in Conference-Committee Section-by-Section Analysis at the end of bill.)

Unfortunately, I do not see that all of my three “musts” have been clearly articulated in the mental health care parts of SB 11.  In my view, the better and more clearly worded a mandate is, the more responsive schools will be because they cannot claim “confusion” as an excuse.  

What we do not want is for our Texas public school children to be treated with psychotropic medications as the first choice.  Those drugs should be the last choice after physical exams and/or therapeutic techniques have been utilized first.  [Please see — 5.22.19 – “Three Musts for TX SB 10, School Mental Health Care Bill” — by Donna Garner – — ]

I do appreciate the Texas Legislators who spent many long hours struggling to put SB 11 together; and there are some very good, realistic, and workable requirements in the bill that should definitely make our public school campuses safer which is the ultimate goal of SB 11.  

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