Senate bill to boost security

JORDAN MOSS
Staff Writer

KC is working with Texas lawmakers to give colleges the ability to conduct deeper criminal background checks on student housing applicants statewide.

Senate Bill 146 will grant schools access to the Department of Public Safety’s secure website. Only a school’s police chief or housing officer would be approved to access the database.

KC was influential in bringing the bill to the floor of the Texas Senate. Edward Williams, director of KC housing, and his brother, Texas Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands), have worked together to create and promote the bill.

Five or six years ago a fight in a KC residential hall prompted Edward Williams to push for deeper background checks on residents.

“When they ran his criminal background as a part of the investigation, [the student arrested] had multiple assaults, including assault of a police officer as part of his criminal history,” Williams said.

Another incident just last year saw a KC student resident do more than $40,000 in damages on campus.

Edward’s relationship with his brother helped get things moving to create the bill.

“He’s heard me talk about it at family gatherings, just with problems we were having,” Edward Williams said.

Sen. Williams has heard his brother’s issue and is working to make sure the bill becomes law.

“This legislation fits nicely with the school safety measures we are promoting this session,” Sen. Williams said.

As of now, colleges can conduct

background checks using public sites, but what they don’t have is the ability to see pending charges. This change is important so that someone awaiting trial with a burglary or assault charge cannot live on campus and potentially commit the same crimes.

“Colleges should be aware of pending charges,” Sen. Williams said.

This is not the first time a bill of this nature has been considered. During the previous Texas Legislature session a similar bill passed the Senate but died waiting on the House, which never got a chance to discuss it as the session expired.

This time the Williams brothers are determined to make sure the bill gets through.

“We’re planning a trip with the housing directors of four colleges, not just community colleges, to go down and see each member of the House of Representatives before it goes to the floor for a vote,” Edward Williams said.

It is important to note that the passing of the bill would not make background checks mandatory.

“SB 146 does not require background checks. It simply allows checks when a school deems it is necessary,” Sen. Williams said.

While the bill would be helpful to smaller schools, it should be noted that it would be impractical for large universities such as University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University to run background checks on everybody who applies. Private institutions operating independently from state funding would not be affected.

Those involved hope the bill will make it through the house before the Texas legislative session ends May 27. Edward Williams is a firm believer it will not only pass, but it will improve safety for campus residents.

“This will make all the difference in the world,” Edward Williams said.