The Senate Education Committee met Wednesday, March 8, 2023, to hear testimony on the following seven bills:
- SB 68, which would designate a “career investigation day,” was introduced by Sen. Judith Zaffirini. Her bill is identical to Rep. Andrew Murr’s HB 13, which was heard in the House Public Education Committee hearing earlier this week. Granger ISD Superintendent Jeni Neatherlin and students from her district testified in support of the bill, which was left pending.
- Zaffirini then introduced a committee substitute for SB 891, which addresses student mental health. Most of the public testimony was in support of the bill. Leander ISD Trustee Anna Smith testified in support of the committee substitute on behalf of TASB, expressing appreciation for the added flexibility and the provision allowing local trustees to adopt specific policies. The committee substitute was adopted and left pending.
- A committee substitute for SB 294, which relates to the use of medication designated for treatment of respiratory distress on public and private school campuses, was laid out by Sen. Nathan Johnson. Committee members discussed the bill’s provisions and agreed to work with Johnson on it moving forward. A resource witness and others testified on the bill. The committee substitute was adopted and left pending.
- Sen. Bob Hall introduced SB 357, which expands the definition of who can serve as a school district peace officer to include honorably retired peace officers. Hall noted the importance of the ability to expand the pool of candidates to help protect students. He said the bill does not eliminate any training or vetting requirements required in statute. Several witnesses testified either neutrally or in favor of the bill, which was left pending.
- Sen. Mayes Middleton laid out SB 798 and noted that Texas has a counselor shortage in addition to a teacher shortage. He noted that this bill would remove the requirement that school counselors must have classroom experience and that current ratios of students to counselors are above the national recommendations. He also said this bill would increase the applicant pool to assist with mental health services for students. The committee took public testimony, and the bill was left pending.
- Sen. Jose Menéndez introduced SB 629 relating to the use of opioid antagonists on public and private school campuses or in transit to or from off-campus school events. He said that he anticipates a committee substitute that will include a provision for parental consent. Two representatives for The University of Texas at San Antonio School of Nursing testified as resource witnesses. The committee discussed Naloxone cost and access. Public testimony was in support of the bill, which was left pending.
- Sen. Royce West introduced SB 133, which would prohibit peace officers and school security personnel who are performing security-related duties on school property or at a school-sponsored or school-related activity from restraining or using a chemical irritant spray on a student who is 10 years old or younger unless the student poses a serious risk of harm to themselves or to another person. West noted that the greatest incident of this type of restraint occurred with first-fourth grade students, ages of 6-10 receiving special education services. The committee heard public testimony and the bill was left pending.