Edison, Texas (AP) — When an investigation found the district mishandled the deaths of three students, it left students angry and distraught, including a 13-year-old boy whose mother had been a teacher at the high school.
In the years since, the scandal has taken a toll on the district, with students and parents frustrated by the district’s lack of action and a lack of transparency.
The state Department of Education has since taken over some oversight of the Edisons high school district.
Now, the Texas Legislature is poised to take steps to restore some of the power and authority that had been transferred from the state to the district.
The new rules, approved Thursday by the House Education and the Workforce Committee, would allow districts to set their own rules about when students should be allowed to return to school.
The legislation also requires schools to make sure students with serious mental illness and students who are addicted to drugs are screened before enrolling in classes.
The bill was co-sponsored by Reps.
JoAnne Kloppenburg, D-Austin, and Tim Johnson, R-Houston.
The state also plans to take action to ensure schools follow current state guidelines regarding the handling of students with severe mental illness.
The new legislation requires schools in Texas to provide mental health care, including counseling, to students who present as mentally ill, if the school can prove it would help them recover academically.
Schools could also have to train teachers on how to treat students with mental illness, but the legislation would require that they not use students as guinea pigs.
State Rep. JoAnn De La Cruz, D of San Antonio, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said she was pleased to see the state’s attorney general take action.
The federal government, she said, “has the jurisdiction to take whatever steps they want to take in order to protect students, not just the people who are there but the people they are supposed to protect.”
The bill is expected to pass the Senate Education and Workforce and be sent to Gov.
In the last year, the state has moved away from a more restrictive approach in the district that has allowed students to leave and return at will without repercussions.
In response to the scandal, the Editions high school has opened an outpatient mental health facility and created a mentoring program that gives students the opportunity to meet other students who might have similar problems.
The district also is trying to find ways to help students who have mental health problems, like the boy who died last month.
The teen, a senior, had been admitted to the school’s outpatient mental care facility after he was diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
He was hospitalized several times, with his parents saying they didn’t understand his behavior.
In January, he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Houston.
On Thursday, a student who was in the emergency room at the Edickson High School after he had been hospitalized with a mental health condition filed a lawsuit against the district alleging that the district failed to protect him from being locked in a mental hospital for three weeks.
The suit was filed in federal court, seeking $8 million in damages.
The district, which was ordered to pay $1.4 million to the boy’s family, has appealed the ruling.
The suit also said the district should have ensured the boy was treated with appropriate care in the hospital, and that the school failed to provide the boy with mental health treatment.
The Edisons superintendent, who is still employed, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
In an interview Thursday, she defended the school district’s response to her son’s death.
“I can’t think of a more thoughtful and compassionate way of handling this than by taking the initiative,” she said.
“And the fact is that there’s not one person that could have done it differently.
If I’d have been a little bit more proactive and a little more proactive, I’m sure the outcome would have been different.”
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