JACKSONVILLE, Texas (KETK)- The Texas Senate committee held numerous hearings this week on school security and gun safety following the tragedy in Uvalde. During the session a Jacksonville native testified for the Texas School District Police Chief Association.
“In my 40 plus years in law enforcement I’d have to say it’s the most disappointing response I’ve ever seen,” said Bill Avera, the Jacksonville ISD Police Chief. He is also the 1st Vice President for the Texas School District Police Chief Association.
Bill Avera’s heart breaks for Uvalde, and that’s why he jumped at the chance to speak in front of the Texas Senate when asked by Senator Robert Nichols.
“We don’t want eight foot fences with… wire around our buildings. We don’t want them looking like fortresses or prisons, but at the same time we want to take good common sense measures,” said Avera.
He discussed issues he has seen first hand. Along with issues schools face, Avera also presented some solutions.
“We know that 80 to 90, probably 95% of our threats are internal. By that I mean a student or a former student,” said Avera.
His main focus being mental health, and how bringing in more preventative services could raise red flags before a tragedy takes place.
“They are somebody who has had red flags going off for sometime. Someone has noticed the change in their behavior. So, if we have these wrap around services at the school level, and we can keep them in school, the research shows we can save them,” said Avera.
The committee worked to come up with a plan to help teachers and students feel safe at school.
“We say that school safety is a shared responsibility, and it’s shared by all the stakeholders in the community,” said Avera.
Additional funding for school safety and training for school employees were also part of the discussion.
“If you wanted to provide an armed peace officer on every campus, for instance in the 9,000 campuses in Texas, you’d probably be talking about half a billion dollars,” said Avera.
He is also asking the State Senate to make programs already available here in Texas more accessible, like the school marshal program.