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In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, Texas school districts are once again rethinking how they respond to threats of violence.
Round Rock Independent School District’s behavioral health and school police departments train and work together to provide a preventive approach. One of the ways they’re working to ensure safety is by referring students who have posed a threat to themselves or others to the district’s in-house social workers.
Round Rock ISD officials believe the district is the only one in Texas employing this model.
The district, located north of Austin, identifies vulnerable students through a variety of means. Staff members monitor whether students’ peers, teachers or family members have alerted the police officers of troubling behavior or language.
The district also uses computer software that combs for keywords on social media that suggest a student poses a threat to themselves or others. Once the school police officers gather that information, they immediately contact the district’s social workers, who perform a mental health screening for that student with parental permission.
By collaborating directly with each other, the two departments are streamlining the process of providing effective mental health support by performing what is essentially a relay.
The district police and behavioral health departments also participate in school safety training together, as well as meetings where they discuss how to better support their campuses.
On the state level, the Texas Legislature is also looking to its upcoming session, which starts Tuesday, to bring several bills that focus on mental health and safety in schools into the discussion.
Senate Bill 245, filed by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, seeks to expand telehealth mental health services in public schools for students who exhibit disruptive or abusive behavior. Senate Bill 112, filed by Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, would add a mental health course to the required curriculum for public high school students. Senate Bill 113, also filed by Menéndez, would allow school districts to contract their local mental health authorities to provide campuswide mental health assessments and services.
A month after the Uvalde shooting, Texas leaders also allocated over $100.5 million in state funds toward school safety and mental health services.