As the 88th Texas legislative session draws to a close, lawmakers are fervently advancing their bills at the State Capitol. With the anniversary of the Uvalde mass shooting looming, bills focusing on school safety have come under the spotlight.
The creation of a safety and security department at the Texas Education Agency, the mandated presence of an armed security officer on Texas campuses, and the proposal of a $25,000 stipend for employees who opt to carry a gun on campus are among the major pieces of legislation still up for debate.
Both the Texas House and Senate have already passed a bill, backed by bipartisan support, that would mandate panic buttons in classrooms across the state.
“I think that that really underscores, ‘OK, here’s something that we can at least agree,’ that whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, whether you’re conservative or liberal or progressive, we can all agree that getting assistance to a student in crisis or a classroom in crisis, however, defined, is something that we can all agree on,” said Derek Cohen, the Vice President of Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
While the aim to ensure school safety has broad support, some of the measures currently being implemented may not allay teachers’ concerns.
“So fear is a major factor for our educators,” commented Rena Honea, the President of Alliance AFT. “Are they willing to put their life on the line for someone else’s child? Most of them, yes, they are. But then they have to consider what does that do for my family, for my own children, for my husband, my siblings?”
State Senator Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, encouraged a continuation of the discussion around gun control measures. “Under no certain terms should we avoid talking about guns. And I’m not going to stop talking about guns,” Gutierrez insisted. “Seventy-six percent of Republicans have been polled very recently saying they want common sense gun safety solutions, raising the age limit, extreme mayors protective orders, closing the gun show loophole, a loophole. We’ve got to be able to do those types of things.”
Despite concerns, addressing school safety in any form garners significant backing, and the Texas legislature remains dedicated to achieving successful outcomes that will benefit all.