News Roundup: Texas Lawmakers Will Meet To Discuss School Mental Health Resources

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJune 22, 2018 1:30 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Members of the Texas House of Representatives meet next week to discuss children’s mental health and school support services.

The joint hearing of the House Committees on Public Health and Public Education is part of the legislature’s response to the deadly shooting at Santa Fe High School in May. Josette Saxton, the Director of Mental Health Policy with the advocacy group, Texans Care for Children, describes one idea she’d like lawmakers to consider. She thinks they should establish a center for student mental health, much like the Texas School Safety Center, which provides guidance on security issues to districts statewide.

“Right now we know a lot of schools in the state are very much interested in promoting the social emotional learning of their students, creating safe and supportive environments, and addressing mental health with students, but there is no place for them to turn to,” Saxton says. “So they’re doing it largely on their own.”

Saxton also expects lawmakers to discuss recent data on youth suicide rates as part of a larger effort to understand student mental and the resources available. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 12 percent of Texas high school students attempted suicide in 2017, compared to the national average of 7 percent.

“The numbers show that there really is a whole lot of pain and despair, and isolation that our kids here in Texas are feeling,” Saxton says. “And that it affects not just their safety and well-being, but really how well they’re going to be able to do in school.”

The hearing is set for next Thursday.

The top law enforcement official in the largest city in Texas is speaking out against efforts to detain migrant families who enter the United States. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo spoke to the media Thursday on a call organized by the National Immigration Forum.

Chief Acevedo’s criticism comes in the wake of President Trump’s executive order halting his administration’s family separation policy. Instead, migrant families will be detained together if parents are facing prosecution. But Acevedo says that policy is also inappropriate, since people should only be detained if they pose a threat to public safety.

“And when people are coming here driven by a desperation to get away from the violence of Central and South America, or other parts of the world, and coming to live in peace with their family – they don’t pose a threat,” Acevedo says.

Acevedo says using other strategies, such as ankle monitors, would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars compared to detention.

A former Obama administration official discussed alternatives to detention in an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition earlier this week, which can be heard here.

The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a Republican-backed farm bill Thursday with a vote of 213 to 211, and it includes controversial work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, also known as food stamps.

As KETR’s Scott Morgan reports, the head of a hunger advocacy group is criticizing the legislation.

Feeding Texas CEO Celia Cole said in a statement that SNAP “deserves to be respected and strengthened, not used as a bargaining chip to pass flawed legislation.”

She’s referring to the reason the Farm Bill failed on its first vote in the House. Hard line conservatives from the Freedom Caucus withheld support of the House bill in order to get leverage on a conservative immigration issue.

On Thursday the House passed its version of the bill by just two votes. A vote on the Senate version is expected by next week.