When the Governor Greg Abbott signed a school safety bill, SB 11, that calls for students to learn about domestic violence prevention, requires certain training for school resource officers and would provide an undetermined amount of state money for campus security measures and mental health initiatives, Edinburg School District set all the wheels in motion to prepare for its implementation.
Edinburg CISD Police Chief Ricardo Perez said they now have a threat assessment team because of the bill. Once organized, the key people involved with assessing threats to the school district or student body will take the proper measures whether it be legal action or administrative action.
The team consists of the police command staff which includes three sergeants, a captain and the chief.
“To be added to list would be the assistant superintendent of operations, licensed professional counselors and anyone that would be instrumental depending on the severity of the threat,” Perez said.
The Edinburg school district currently employs two licensed professional counselors. One for adults and one for students. Depending on what the situation calls for there might only be a need for one.
Senate Bill 11 attempts to strengthen mental health initiatives in Texas schools, ensure school district employees are equipped to respond to emergencies by requiring they have classroom access to a telephone and other electronic measures.
Perez said having the counselors helps determine if mental illness could have been a factor should an event occur.
“Maybe the individual is suffering from mental illness or some type of stress,” Perez said. “So that is how the counselors would get involved, in assessing the threat management of the investigation to the threat.”
Training for the school district police was given by Texas State University and Perez said it included how to assess a threat and the steps to take a proactive approach to filing charges or taking administrative action.
The Edinburg school district has had a police department since 1995. It is common for Perez and his staff to assist other school districts locally and state wide when it comes to implementing programs such as the first offender program or creating a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. Which the district has both.
Perez considers the police department as a model police department because they have built their staff and services for safety and security to protect lives and property for the school district community.
“As a result we're recognized as being top five in the state and top 25 in the nation for having one the best school police departments,” he said.
Senate Bill 11 topped Abbott's priority list to reassure Texans that the Legislature would take steps to ensure a tragedy like the one in 2018 at Santa Fe High School that left 10 dead and another 13 wounded would never happen again.
The bill was authored by state Sen. Larry Taylor, whose district includes Santa Fe High School.