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KVUE: Gov. Greg Abbott's Series of Roundtable Discussions on School Safety Kicks off Tuesday

May 23, 2018

Austin - In response to the most recent school shooting in Santa Fe which left 10 dead and an additional 13 wounded, Gov. Gregg Abbott on Tuesday hosted the first of three roundtable events to evaluate solutions to gun violence in Texas.

Administrators and school officials from across the Lone Star State gathered at the Texas State Capitol to discuss topics that address safety and security at Texas schools on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday’s meeting included school superintendents, law enforcement, and lawmakers, and focused on school and community safety.

The governor told each of them to participate, bring ideas to the table, and said he had one goal in mind: to gain as much information as possible from each person in the room.

Governor Abbott told media they talked about ideas such as more mental health counselors at schools, rewards for students who share information, and the importance of putting officers on school property.

Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks spoke to KVUE immediately after the meeting.

“It was exciting to be around a table of people that are actually willing to sit, and try to get this resolved. Enough of the talk, it’s about actions right now,” said Banks.

Banks is in talks with Round Rock ISD about starting their own school district police department.

“When I have a city that’s growing and expanding the way it is, and I have 12 SROs -- two of which are sergeants that are taking care of nearly 55,000 students. I’ve got three different law enforcement entities within that 55,000 students and 55 schools. It’s important that we have one school system law enforcement under that district,” said Banks.

Banks said an important part of keeping students safe in schools is identifying the threat.

“We’ve got to identify the students that are going to be the threat to our school and to our other students. I have a vested interest. I have a kid that’s in Round Rock ISD right now, and the last thing I want is a phone call saying that my kid was shot and killed by somebody that we knew was going to be a threat and we didn’t take any actions on it,” said Banks.

Banks talked about preparing for not just active shooters, but active killers saying it’s focus on more weapons than firearms.

The governor also mentioned the Hays County Sheriff’s Office and trying to implement some of their school safety plans statewide.

Lieutenant Jeri Skrocki with the Hays County Sheriff Office attended the meeting Tuesday.

“I am so incredibly pleased at what I had the opportunity to be a part of, to listen to the governor and everyone that was assembled in that room, with the absolute commitment of making our children safe,” said Skrocki.

Skrocki told KVUE she will now meet with the school safety center and share their plans.

Skrocki said officials show students, teachers and faculty members a safety video. She said they work to prepare everyone for different scenarios and go through a mock 9-1-1 call.

But Skrocki said the important part is talking to students, parents and the community about what to do.

“That’s the key to this: communicating not only at the law enforcement level, but also with all of our districts, and including our children, and preparing them for best case scenario. And of course what to do if something horrendous happens, and quite frankly looping in their parents, and making them part of the message as well,” said Skrocki.

Skrocki feels it’s time to have tough conversations.

"Let our kids know you need to have this dialogue with your parents at home. We know statistically that kids that self-evacuate don’t get injured, and so those are the kinds of things that it's very hard for people to think about their kids running out of a school. But at the same time, for them to recognize the fact that we typically don't see children that are fleeing from a school getting hurt, and so those conversations, parents have to have, they have to spend the time talking to their kids and learning what that means," said Skrocki.

Some have urged Abbott to call a special session on this issue.

When asked that question Tuesday, the governor said that's a “policy question,” and right now they're still looking for solutions.

Abbott said in a press release that last Friday's massacre was “one of the most heinous attacks that we've ever seen in the history of Texas schools.”

Although Abbott asked the country for support, for both the families impacted and first responders, his calls for action supersede prayers.

“We need to do more than just pray,” Abbott said. “It's time in Texas we take action to step up and make sure this tragedy is never repeated.”

Safety options such as providing fewer entrances to school buildings or having children arrive at earlier times were proposed by Patrick on ABC's "This Week." He stated that preventative measures must be taken in order to protect students, a movement that he said will take not only take work and money but creativity.

“We have to look at ourselves,” said Patrick. “Can there be gun regulation, gun control? I believe that starts at home. Every person who owns a gun must be accountable for their guns at home.”

Straus (R-San Antonio) also extended his condolences in a Facebook statement following the tragedy at Santa Fe High School, stating that talking about school safety is not enough.

"The events today at Santa Fe High School represent the worst nightmare of every parent and educator, and it is my hope that the safety of our school campuses will be a top priority when the Texas Legislature convenes in 2019,” wrote Straus. “Elected leaders should take significant, concrete action to prevent school shootings. Just talking about school safety is not enough.”

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) issued the following statement about gun violence, the exclusion of the leadership of state teacher organizations and of two prominent gun safety groups from development of a state plan to address it:

“Seeing the horror and grief in Santa Fe, I thought: This could have been my granddaughter’s school. It could have been the school of a member of your family. And then, before Friday even ended, there was another shooting at a Georgia school. Gun violence is increasingly the way that some disturbed people project their anger, their hate, or their fear. We’ve had enough moments of silence. We need some moments of action to prevent more and more families from suffering like this. While there is no legislative panacea, this NRA-beholden Congress refuses to even approve a Commission to study gun violence. I agree that we should strengthen school security, though we’ve done that pretty well in our area already, and that we need to improve access to mental health services—the very kind that Republicans have opposed. But that is just not enough. Personally, I grew up in Texas with guns. I recall one November morning, when my father won a Winchester 30/30 for bringing in the first deer in the county. We were mighty proud. But you just don’t need a military-style assault rifle for that. And gunowners have nothing to fear from a quick, universal background check. We need officials with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and stand up for our schoolchildren—not to endlessly praise the NRA, as Governor Abbott, Governor Dan Patrick, and our Senators did up in Dallas just this very month. An Abbott roundtable, like the one President Trump conducted, or appointing just another committee—that’s just not enough.”

The next roundtables will be held on Wednesday and Thursday at the capitol.