AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on May 30 joined state and local leaders in Dallas and San Marcos to unveil his School and Firearm Safety Action Plan.
The governor’s plan came 12 days after the Santa Fe High School shooting in which 10 people were killed and 10 people were injured. It contains 40 recommendations, including proposals that call for:
• Increasing law enforcement presence at schools;
• Strengthening existing campus security programs;
• Enhancing firearm safety;
• Requiring that gun owners report to law enforcement within 10 days if their firearms are lost or stolen;
• Providing mental health evaluations that identify students at risk of harming others, and much more.
Abbott’s announcement follows three roundtable discussions seeking input from victims, parents, educators, lawmakers, law enforcement entities and policy experts.
“This plan is a starting point, not an ending place,” Abbott said. “It provides strategies that can be used before the next school year begins to keep our students safe when they return to school. This plan will make our schools safer and our communities safer.”
Abbott said he wants state Senate and House leaders to issue an interim charge to consider the merits of adopting a “red flag” law that would allow law enforcement, a family member, school employee or a district attorney to file a petition seeking the removal of firearms from a potentially dangerous person, but only after legal due process is followed.
Abbott’s recommendations, if adopted, would require an estimated $110 million in funding, according to the Governor’s Office.
Assistance is extended
Gov. Greg Abbott on May 25 announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency granted his request to extend the deadline to June 30 for transitional sheltering assistance for Hurricane Harvey survivors.
The assistance helps displaced individuals who are unable to return to their homes find short-term shelter in hotels or other temporary housing.
“Since the devastation brought by Hurricane Harvey, Texas has made great progress in helping families return to their homes,” Abbott said.
Don’t leave child in car
Temperatures across Texas have breached the 100-degree mark, and warmer weather puts a child at greater risk of injury or death if they are left unattended in a vehicle.
The Texas Department of Public Safety on May 24 posted a warning to alert Texans that children can die from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle or entering a vehicle unnoticed, and such negligence could lead to criminal charges.
“Children are needlessly dying every year because they are left unattended in vehicles. The public can do their part by notifying emergency personnel if they witness a child alone or in distress inside a vehicle, regardless of the weather conditions,” said DPS Director Steve McCraw.
System failures addressed
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath on May 24 addressed online testing issues that occurred in April and May when 5th and 8th grade students took the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness or “STAAR” examinations.
When the tests were administered, thousands of students encountered connectivity slowdowns and/or login and logout issues that affected their grades.
Student performance on “STAAR” is a component of school ratings. Morath, on May 23, notified school districts and charters that TEA would exclude the results of the STAAR tests for students directly affected by the online testing issues, but, he added, any test results that positively benefit a district or campus rating, that district or campus will receive the higher rating.
Morath said the Texas Education Agency would fine the contractors responsible for the testing problems and move forward with plans to rebid the assessment contracts.
AG files motion for stay
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on May 25 filed an emergency motion with the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to stay a lower court’s May 10 ruling that Texas must alter its voter registration procedures.
The San Antonio-based Federal District Court, Western District of Texas, sided with civil rights plaintiffs in a ruling by Chief Judge Orlando L. Garcia. Texas violated the motor voter provision of the National Voter Registration Act by failing to automatically register voters who use the Department of Public Safety’s driver’s license renewal and change of address website, Garcia wrote.
Garcia gave the state 45 days to cure the problem and 14 days to devise a statewide public education plan to inform citizens about changes in the voter registration process.
In his motion, Paxton argued that Garcia’s ruling forces Texas to engage in monitoring activities not required by federal law.
Ed Sterling is director of member services for the Texas Press Association.