Perry Signs New Law Designed To Improve Safety At State Schools

This week's cover story, The Recruit, deals with state schools and the popular alternative: privately-owned group homes.

Today, Governor Rick Perry signed into law a bill designed to improve the safety and quality of care for residents at state schools.

"Whether these Texans live in a state facility or in therapeutic community settings, we are obligated by basic human decency to provide them with a safe setting in which to live, learn and grow," Perry said. "SB 643 improves oversight of the state school population with everything from increased penalties for wrongdoing, to increased use of monitoring technology in our facilities."

The bill makes it harder on state school employees. New applicants are subject to criminal background checks and staff can get randomly tested for drugs. A failed test is an automatic firing. And, if an employee knows another employee is using drugs, he's required to narc on the other guy.

Staff will be better educated also. There's a whole list of new training, including and introduction to mental retardation, an introduction to mental illness and dual diagnosis, the safe and proper use of restraints, and armed-intruder lockdown procedures.

The state will also install video surveillance equipment throughout the schools, designed for "detecting and preventing the exploitation or abuse of residents and clients." It's perhaps the most drastic part of the bill, but the cameras can't be installed in private spaces like bathrooms or bedrooms.

The bill also ups some regulations at the private homes, which have been minimal compared to state schools.

The state is going to contract with a "patient safety organization" to provide an independent team of doctors and nurses to review each death in the group homes, but the names of the facilities where residents die will be kept confidential.

So we won't know about the homes where patients die, even if abuse or neglect played a role. But we're sure the state will regulate and fix as needed. Right?

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Paul Knight
Contact: Paul Knight