FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 9, 2023
Austin, TX – Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) filed his “Safety Six” which is a group of bills to strengthen school safety on multiple levels. During the 2021-2022 school year, there were over 130,000 truancy cases in Houston area school districts. Furthermore, the Robb Elementary School shooter had hundreds of unexcused absences before being involuntary withdrawn from his school district. These bills will create top-down policy guidelines so all schools collect and communicate student attendance and behavior data. “Bottom line is, we’ve got to do something about school attendance and truancy because this is not trending well for the kids, their families, or society.” Said Senator Bettencourt.
How school districts currently handle truancy varies widely from district to district. Senate Bill 1630 will require all schools to adopt an attendance policy to address truancy. It will require notifications being sent out for excused or unexcused absences via email, text, or by mail. Then, once a student fails to attend school for a certain period, a meeting between a parent and an appropriate administrator from the school will be required. If the parent fails to attend the meeting, the school attendance officer will make a home visit to investigate the student’s behavior and living conditions and report the findings to the school or district. Finally, SB 1630 will establish guidelines to identify students in need of in-school or out-of-school support services aimed at addressing a student’s failure to attend school regularly. SB 1888 requires the TEA to gather and make available student truancy and chronic absenteeism data at the campus and district levels annually.
“All schools need support systems that address unexcused absences faster and before students get so far behind, they can’t catch up. SB 1630 & SB 1888 puts this system in place. We’ll find out which schools need the most resources because the data will be very clear, and as I like to say, what gets measured gets fixed!” Said Senator Bettencourt.
Senator Bettencourt has filed other common-sense School Safety bills including SB 1631, requiring a student’s disciplinary record or any threat assessment involving their behavior to travel with them when they transfer schools. SB 1632 allows school districts to request feedback from the Texas School Safety Center prior to submitting a multi-hazard emergency operations plan. Once approved by the Texas School Safety Center, a school must then submit their plan to local law enforcement for feedback. SB 1633 establishes a grant program giving $3,000 to school campuses for school marshals and guardian programs. SB 1635 will require the Texas School Safety Center to establish and maintain a list of vendors approved for school safety related products.
“We’ve got to make sure schools are protected using best-practices, help from marshals and guardians, tracking and reporting consistent data, and making sure this critical data on absenteeism and truancy is shared with other schools because that’s lessons learned!” Concluded Senator Bettencourt.
Sen. Bettencourt is the second longest standing member on the Senate Committee on Education and has served on the Texas Commission on Virtual Education, the Texas Commission on Special Education Funding, plus the Protect All Texans Committee during the 87th Interim.