Texas has been on the nation’s front pages since the school shooting at Santa Fe, south of Houston. Now, after an unprecedented three days of roundtable discussions with experts, school administrators and others, all eyes are on Gov. Greg Abbott’s just-released proposal to curb gun violence in Texas schools.
But what do school administrators think of the plan? Texas Standard Host David Brown spoke with the superintendents of three Texas school districts.
Abbott’s plan allocates $120 million to mental health services for students. San Antonio ISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez supports the idea.
“In our district, with over 50,000 students, we struggle,” Martinez says. “Even though we’re part of a large city, San Antonio, there’s still just not enough resources to ensure that children who need those services are getting them.”
Corpus Christi ISD Superintendent Roland Hernandez agrees with the emphasis and funding for mental health. He says counselor training in his district has already been beefed up recently. Hernandez also says that his district is well-positioned in another area Abbott addressed in his plan – police presence on school campuses.
Superintendent Mark Dominguez of Buena Vista ISD says law enforcement presence in his schools is not as great as it is in many larger districts, but that there have been efforts at “hardening” schools against potential violence.
Martinez says the governor’s plan, delivered so soon after the Santa Fe shooting, will facilitate a conversation around the state, and with the legislature when it is next in session.
He says the ratio of counselors to students in his district is inadequate to meet the need.
Hernandez agrees that what the governor has proposed is a starting point.
“The study groups were good,” he says. “I do think that a lot of it is good to speak about, but if districts are not given the resources, funding-wise to make any of this possible, it really doesn’t do us any good.”
Dominguez says the cost to implement new safety and mental health efforts in a small school district like his, is high.
“The safety and security of our students is very important,” he says “and I don’t think that you can put a price tag or dollar amount on the importance of that.”
Abbott’s plan would strengthen some rules requiring reporting of lost or stolen guns, and would close some loopholes in gun purchase regulations. But the plan has few other specific measures for keeping guns out of the hands of potential school shooters.
Martinez says that in this area, too, what the governor has proposed on guns is a good start.
“We know from a lot of other events that have happened around the country that there are a lot of silos within state government and local government,” Martinez says. “And sometimes school districts are the ones to suffer for that.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.