On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law controversial school safety and mental health legislation, despite vocal objections from conservative activists across the state.
Among the bills signed by Abbott at Thursday’s bill signing event was Senate Bill 11. Originally focused on school safety in the wake of the Santa Fe High School shooting in 2018, the bill was amended to include the creation of the “Texas Mental Health Care Consortium” after State Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R–Bedford) killed a separate bill to do exactly that on procedural grounds earlier in the evening.
“After the horrific shooting in Santa Fe and the subsequent school safety roundtables, I made school safety an emergency item to help prevent a tragedy like this from happening again,” Abbott told reporters. “Today, I am proud to sign legislation to make Texas schools safer for students and teachers. I thank members from both chambers, as well as the many stakeholders, who worked tirelessly to get these bills through the Legislature and to my desk today.”
Despite the bill’s unanimous passage in the Senate and near-unanimous passage in the House, many conservative activists raised concerns over parental rights, privacy, and the potential for over-medication of psychotropic drugs.
After the bill passed the legislature, a coalition of conservative organizations across the state, including Grassroots America We The People and the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party, wrote to Abbott to urge him to veto his priority legislation.
“We greatly appreciate your efforts to make schools safer. Regrettably, we cannot support these bills. SB 11 contained several features that directly addressed school safety. However, it also had provisions of concern. While some groups attempted to get these concerns addressed, the bill was only made worse,” the group said in a letter dated May 29. “We believe that the use of a psychiatric consortium that has inherent connections to the pharmaceutical industry simply puts Texas children at risk of dangerous psychotropic drugging and policies that lead to the same.”
The request fell on deaf ears, however, as Abbott signed the legislation without even responding to their objections.
In addition to SB 11, Abbott also signed legislation to increase mental health training for teachers and counselors, as well as a bill to remove the cap on the number of school marshals that may be appointed per campus.