CROSBY As local residents reacted to the news of another school shooting, this time close at hand at Lone Star College – North Houston, officials were moving at the same time to make changes in school safety procedures that would help reduce the chance of violence.
At least three initiatives will take place in the next few weeks, to address the problem.
State Senator Tommy Williams, representing Crosby and Huffman, joined with State Senator John Whitmire and Representative Dan Huberty to introduce a bill entitled Texas School District Security Act to help protect students and school personnel. The bill would allow local school boards to choose how to provide additional security, and provide a funding through local taxes in addition to other funds they raise for normal teaching operations.
Crosby Safety Measures
Commenting on the new legislation, Crosby ISD superintendent Dr. Keith Moore told the Star-Courier We have taken all immediate measures that we can. and added We also will be conducting an active shooter training in February… with Precinct 3 constables for district staff.
In addition, Sheriff Adrian Garcia has organized a public forum on January 24 at San Jacinto College, bringing together officials and the public to discuss additional School Safety initiatives from these departments.
Lone Star College Shooting
At presstime on Tuesday, the details of the shooting at the main campus of Lone Star College- North Houston are just becoming known.
According to Major Armando Tello of the Harris County Sheriffs department, at about 12:20 on Tuesday an altercation developed between two young men on the campus of Lone Star College. As the disagreement escalated, one of the men allegedly drew a gun and fired at the other. Apparently in the melee that ensued, he shot himself as well as the other person, and also shot a bystander, a maintenance man, in the leg.
An additional victim in the disturbance was a woman student, who was not involved in the fight or gunplay, but suffered a medical conditon, perhaps a heart attack.
Witnesses told media reporters that they heard six or seven gun shots. The activity occured in a courtyard between the library and an academic building, they said.
Authorities responded immediately to the shots, and EMS personnel who train at the college were on the scene in a few minutes, witnesses said, as well as Sheriffs officers, Pct. 4 constables and College police.
Because the perpetrators were both wounded, the real danger was quickly contained. However, because officials did not know the complete circumstances that led to the shooting, they assumed there might be more danger. Therefore, they locked down the campus and eventually evacuated all students and personnel, as a Harris County SWAT team arrived and methodically searched each building.
Officials transported the two wounded men to Ben Taub hospital, as well as the custodian. Also the woman with the heart condition was sent to the hospital for evaluation and treatment.
As the scene developed, and with the possibility of other shooters, nearby Aldine ISD schools were put into lock-down, the campuses were sealed to the public, and students were sequestered. This happened at Nimitz High School, Nimitz 9th grade school, Parker Intermediate, and Dunn Elementary. All of these schools are along W. W. Thorne Drive in the immediate proximity to the Lone Star campus.
Authorities at first did not have much hard information to impart to the public and the media, but at 2 p.m. and again at 4 p.m. they were able to hold news conferences with updates on information.
These were conducted by HCSO Major Armando Tello, Christina Garza of the Sheriffs office, John Ludemann and Chancellor Richard Carpenter, head of the Lone Star College System. In addition, Aldine ISD kept the public informed through the public information officer, Mike Keeney.
By evening, the campus was quiet, and almost everyone had left. The public schools were released from lock-down in the middle of the afternoon, and most students were dismissed near their regular times.
School Safety Legislation
Senators Williams, Whitmire and Representative Huberty propose Texas School District Security Act to help protect students, school personnel.
AUSTIN Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, and Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Humble, announced their intention today (Tuesday, Jan. 22) to file legislation to enhance safety for students and school personnel.
The Texas School District Security Act would give school boards, parents and taxpayers local choices and control in hiring licensed peace officers to protect school campuses. The plan is a response to the school-shooting tragedy last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct.
The plan would rely on professional police officers to defend our children and schools for local communities that want this option.
The three legislators characterize their plan as a Texas solution to save lives without sacrificing freedoms while noting school communities are smart enough to figure out what works best for them and how much theyre willing to commit.
We can offer a solution that will save lives. We can do so without overreactions and gun control and with the best interests of our students, teachers, faculty and communities. We can also let local school districts decide for themselves, Sen. Williams said. A blanket state mandate wont work. Nor will a one-size-fits-all policy. Our idea emphasizes local choice and local control.
I support Senator Williams in proposing a plan to allow school districts an option to develop their individual security plans, stated Senator Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. I trust our school boards and parents to decide what is best for their schools and this will allow them that opportunity.
Representative Huberty served as president of the Humble School Board before his election to the Texas Legislature.
I understand first-hand the importance of local control and how this law will allow school districts, school boards and their constituents the ability to decide for themselves how to best use their resources to protect our most precious assets our children, Rep. Huberty said. I look forward to working with Senators Williams and Whitmire and my House colleagues during this session to pass this important piece of legislation.
Additional protection of students and schools wont come without additional cost, noted Sen. Williams, new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
I know just how tight state and local budgets are these days. I also know that we need to pay as we go, avoid running up debt, and empower local school districts to decide what the best policy is for them, the Senate Finance chairman said. This plan also underscores accountability to voters.
Many Texas school districts are already stretched to the maximum but should be able to decide for themselves if they want to invest in increased, dedicated safety protections, the officials said while outlining their Texas School District Security Act.
Modeled after current law, which allows municipalities to vote to adopt Crime Control Districts, the legislation, being drafted, would do the following:
Allow individual independent school districts to vote on and approve dedicated funding for enhanced school security measures.
Place trained, licensed and armed peace officers in all schools within a district or only those in which the school district chooses.
Provide funding for enhanced screening and security measures at public K through 12 schools.
Allow for dedicated sales tax (if available under the state cap), or a dedicated property tax specifically for crime control and enhanced security based on local school district votes and desires. The revenue generated from a local option School District Security Fund would be separate from all other district funding.
Provide transparency and accountability by requiring ISDs to hold public hearings on what is to be included and provided by the Texas School District Security Act. Costs will be spelled out and voters will know the estimated amount of the dedicated property or sales tax to cover those costs before holding an election on the issue.
Require a review and renewal election every 5 years by voters.
Repeal of the Texas School District Security Act will be allowed with a repeal petition that contains valid signatures from voters in the district equal to at least 50 percent of the number of votes cast in the election creating the special district.
The elected and accountable local school board would also serve as the board of the Texas School District Security Act.
A constitutional amendment may be required to give school districts authority to fund the School District Security Act. The bill is still being drafted and the funding details are part of the process. We are confident that Texas voters will support such an amendment, if necessary, to help make our schools safer.
Voters in school districts across Texas ought to be able to decide for themselves if they want to dedicate some funds – that are accountable and transparent – to enhance the protection of our school children and our schools, Sen. Williams said.
I believe we can offer solutions which dont infringe on the lawful right to bear arms. I know each of us will sleep better knowing our local communities have options to fund safety measures so our children can learn and grow in safe environments, Sen. Williams said.