Select Page

The Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans, chaired by Sen. Robert Nichols held its first hearing Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in the Senate Chambers. The Committee heard from 13 panels of invited testimony on charges related to school safety, police training, and social media. One panel included TASA superintendents Keith Bryant of Lubbock-Cooper ISD and Dr. Jay Killgo, Vidor ISD.

TASA Panel

Bryant, TASA’s Legislative Committee chair, began the testimony. He said that LCISD is a fast growth district with approximately 8,000 students and the No. 1 goal of student safety. He said he believes school safety to be the goal on the forefront for superintendents across the state. Bryant described the 12-person police department in his district that provides an officer on every campus. He explained that the officers do three things: 1) act as a deterrent by being visible on the campus and at school activities with a goal of engaging with a human threat and taking the threat down within 30 seconds; 2) build relationships and know the students, especially those at risk (the human factor element); and 3) be at any event on the campus whether school related or not.

Bryant described other safety features/procedures including the expectation that classrooms always be locked, exterior doors are fobbed (electronic fob needed to get in), and the provision of apps for every teacher that can be used to immediately notify officials of the GPS location of a threat. He cautioned about publishing campus floor plans publicly as that could put campuses in harm’s way as a target, and he encouraged the state to continue to allow districts to maintain a measure of confidentiality about their security precautions. Bryant said that the school safety allotment was appreciated, but $9.72 per student was not sufficient in covering ongoing school safety costs and he encouraged the committee to consider an increase in the allotment amount.

Dr. Jay Killgo, Vidor ISD, also testified. He described his district as one in a slow decline of student enrollment mainly due to adverse effects from hurricanes throughout the years. He said that VISD has a $40 million budget, with $570,000 for safety and security. Killgo said that the district has four officers and six security guards to cover all the campuses. He noted the newest campus in VISD was built in 1970 and that two campuses that had been flooded were being rebuilt with only one entrance to enhance security.

Killgo described other security features including the locking of doors, drills to improve safety plans, removal of local elections from campuses, and implementation of a mental health program established after Hurricane Harvey that started with grant funding (Communities In Schools) and is now absorbed into the district budget.

Other discussion items amongst the senators and superintendents included:

  • School audit requests from the Texas School Safety Center are of value, as the audits help inform school leaders of anything that might be missing from their safety plans.
  • The traditional classroom setting doesn’t work for some students and there needs to be a place for those students to go if there is a threat to other students.
  • State provision of funds to help harden schools and increase the allotment would go a long way in easing parental concerns.
  • Local discretion in safety and security decisions is critical.
  • Positions on age limits for assault weapon purchase? Superintendents can’t speak for entire communities.
  • The vast majority of TASA members are engaging with local safety officials.
  • School boards in Texas will hold their superintendents accountable for school safety.
  • Consider publishing certain aspects of safety audits so that parents could see efforts of districts while maintaining a measure of confidentiality for student safety purposes.
  • Positions on armed teachers? No in LCISD because they have trained officers, and likely no in VISD as they would look in other directions first.
  • Positions on a grading system for district school safety measures? No for both districts as they need opportunities to correct any deficiencies, districts could become targets, and too many complexities would accompany a grading system when district needs are so diverse.

Watch the archived video of the TASA superintendent panel starting at the 10:46:10 mark.

Other Testimony

Some of the other invited testimony included leadership representing the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Education Agency, the Texas School Safety Center, and the Texas School District Police Chiefs’ Association. The committee heard from additional panels followed by public testimony.