School safety plan: Can we start now?

Published 1:29 pm Monday, June 4, 2018


Gov. Greg Abbott’s 43-page plan, “School and Firearm Safety Action Plan,” includes immediate steps and action plans. If these suggestions make sense, why not take them under review for action now?

Here’s one for which discussion and planning could start Monday: Schools should meet with law enforcement officials to heighten police presence on campus and in the area of schools. That means putting schools on police patrol routes. It also means providing a school space where officers might stop by for breaks, lunch or to file reports. In essence, it would create a police substation on the campus, increasing police visibility and presence at the school. That makes imminent sense.

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Here’s another suggestion that administrators might weigh during the summer: “Hardening” campuses. School facilities present “soft targets,” the governor’s report says, but could become more impenetrable in a variety of ways. In many cases, that might require retrofitting buildings, but there are other possible ways to “harden” a campus, including the use of deadbolts and greater security at entrances and exits. Summer is a great time for discussion and planning. The Texas School Safety Center has ample information.

Here’s another idea: Increase mental health “first aid” training — now. The governor’s plan says preparation includes eight hours of training for people to provide short-term help for people experiencing mental health “situations” on campus until a trained person arrives. Money may be available.

How about this one? Explore creation of Campus Crime Stoppers organizations. According to the plan, Campus Crime Stoppers can provide a vehicle for students, employees, parents and others to relay information about school crimes to law enforcement agencies. Crime Stoppers of Houston created a safe campus program that serves 39 independent school districts. The governor’s plan says it “allows students to anonymously report acts of bullying, violence, unusual behavior, weapons, drugs, self-harm, and other felony and misdemeanor crimes” through a tip line. That’s worth a look.

This is interesting: “iWatch Texas,” the state Department of Public Safety app, will launch as a standalone app Thursday. Expanding its reach to students and teachers would provide another means for linking information about schools threats to other data about school threats around the state, according to the governor’s plan.

There are other measures, too, that need additional fleshing out at the local and legislative levels. The governor’s plan supports training and arming more teachers and school employees on campus and making the training of such “marshals” more pointed toward gun proficiency. The Texas State Teachers Association opposes that vehemently, which may make that specific suggestion a tough sell.

But there’s plenty more to ponder in the governor’s plan, and such study, discussion and implementation can begin now. Let’s not wait for the next tragedy.