Behind the Scenes of HB3: Texas’ New School Safety Bill


Just over a year since the tragic Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the state legislature passed a top-priority school safety bill, House Bill 3. The bill provides funds and methods to support Texas schools’ efforts to protect kids and teachers from active shooters and improve transparency, guidance, and accountability for school safety and security requirements. Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill yesterday, and it will be effective on September 1, 2023.

HB3 will bring significant changes to the way the state’s 1000+ school districts approach safety on campus, including key funding measures like:

  • Providing $15,000 per campus to each school district for security upgrades
  • Providing $10 per student for security investments
  • Allocating $1.1 billion to the Texas Education Agency to administer school safety grants to districts


HB3 is an important school safety bill to help Texas ISDs protect students

Last September, we started voicing what so many families were also asking: “What more can be done to safeguard our students, teachers, and staff?” And however one tries to answer that question, funding is a non-trivial requirement. The state legislature’s job includes helping schools align their security budget to match their needs.  

But in Texas, the legislature meets only every other year. Therefore, this year’s five-month legislative session was a critical window of opportunity to take action, or else families would have to wait until the next session to try again in 2025. And that would be unacceptable. 

SparkCognition needed to educate legislators about the benefits of leveraging computer vision technology for school safety. And so we did. Behind the scenes, we worked diligently with lawmakers of both parties to ensure that the 88th Legislature produced a meaningful school safety bill that could increase security for students, teachers, and administrators on campus. 

While no bill is perfect, and we agree with those who wish HB3 provided even more resources for schools facing this monstrous issue, we are pleased to have offered our small contribution to the process behind this school safety bill. Next fall, when the 2023-24 school year opens around the state, House Bill 3 will be in place to help schools deploy security upgrades that could make all the difference in the world for students and teachers who simply want to learn and teach without fear of active shooters shattering their lives.

Meet David Hinds (who met with all 181 elected officials in Texas) 

SparkCognition’s own David Hinds met personally with Texas state senators, representatives, and their staff to explain how SparkCognition Visual AI Advisor works to increase school safety and answer any questions they might have about deploying our solution or the underlying technology itself. Going to the state capital once a week from the beginning of January to the end of May 2023, Hinds successfully connected with every one of Texas’ 181 elected officials offices (31 Senators and 150 representatives) in addition to the Speaker of the House, the Lieutenant Governor’s office, and the Governor’s office. 

Prior to joining SparkCognition, Hinds worked in the Texas State Legislature for three years in the office of a Houston area state representative. Hinds was helping with preparations for SparkCognition’s School Safety Demo Event in December 2022 when he realized that his experience working at the state capital could be useful to make sure the 88th Legislature fully understood what computer vision is and how it works—and why we think Visual AI is the proactive, paradigm-shifting solution school districts need to safeguard students and employees against the highly unpredictable threat posed by active shooters.

Hinds’ started his outreach effort by syncing up with lawmakers and staff he’d known for years. He provided resources to help them learn about Visual AI Advisor’s real-time, automatic threat detection and how it pairs seamlessly with a school’s existing CCTV cameras to allow school security staff more time to move students and teachers to safety while alerting law enforcement at the earliest opportunity so they can respond to the situation.

These discussions helped open doors to offices of officials he’d never met, including some who were initially skeptical of deploying visual AI in schools. Undaunted and unassuming, Hinds kept checking in and offering to listen to their concerns and answer any of their questions. He would be the human face they would recognize on behalf of an AI-enabled solution that can both complement and elevate traditional security approaches like fencing and adding security personnel to campuses. His near-term goal was to help lawmakers draft a responsible school safety bill that included the option of using an emergent technology solution like Visual AI Advisor, but his ultimate goal was to build two-way relationships with lawmakers who share SparkCognition’s vision of a safer school experience for kids and families. 

Hinds said that a demo event SparkCognition hosted in mid-March established a breakthrough. Attendees were able to interact with the Visual AI software in real time to get a sense of how it worked and see its potential for schools. “It was interesting. The conversations I had following the event—you could tell folks went out and talked about it afterward.” Testimonials provided by SparkCognition customers, school safety resource officers, former police chiefs, and other experts in favor of what we bring to a multi-layered school security approach provided traction, too.

Hinds also testified as a witness in front of both the House Youth Health & Safety and the Senate Education Committee. He recalled one particular exchange: “I had a back and forth with a chair of that committee on the kinds of things that visual AI could detect, whether it’s a firearm, student-down, fires, glass shattering, someone sitting in a car outside for too long. And it was like the more conversations we had, the more people understood the concept and the more receptive they were to it. They were getting to ‘Okay, this is something that I want for the school that my kids go to.’ I had multiple reps say those words exactly. ‘this is the kind of thing I want in my kid’s school.’” 

Hinds was genuinely impressed with the spirit of cooperation on this issue within such a famously argumentative environment. He noted, “In both committee hearings, we listened to schools that were coming up and advocating, and we listened to interest groups. We also listened to competitor vendors, you know, each one of us testified after the other. And it was great because we were all relatively on the same side. The goal here is to simply make it so that schools can afford these kinds of technologies—they can choose what works for them.” 

He continued: “This was a nonpartisan issue. Both sides were extremely receptive. No one looked at me and said, ‘No, we don’t want this, we don’t want to increase funding, we don’t want this style of technology.’ That was heartwarming to have the one issue within an entire legislative session that no one argued about. It made sense.” 

“We took a good step in the right direction, and there’s always more work to be done”

Early in the process, Hinds had conversations with a particular lawmaker about writing legislation to expand the kinds of technologies that schools can use and what kind of funding needs to occur. He soon observed that a few omnibus bills were taking shape surrounding school safety, and these would likely carry the day. This became the focus. “And the one that we started with was also the one that passed, which was House Bill 3.” 

The topline achievements of HB3 include an increase to the school safety allotment of $10 per student and $15,000 for each campus within a district. It also authorizes the Texas School Safety Center to conduct checks of a school district’s buildings to verify they follow the state’s safety standards. 

Hinds pointed out that “some of the language that they stuck with was language I had discussed with the author, which is making sure that groups like TEA and the Texas School Safety Center aren’t limited by certain regulatory compliances for who they can select. It’s up to the schools to decide what works best for them. And these are the kinds of things that I explained to say, look, you can add very strict compliance requirements. That will basically limit schools to one vendor, one kind of technology, and one kind of effort to stop the violence. Or you can give the various schools the opportunity to make the decisions for themselves—considering every district is different, and every campus is different, whether it’s in an urban or rural environment, etc.” 

Reflecting on his experience, Hinds said, “We took a good step in the right direction, and there’s always more work to be done. It goes back to the point I made earlier. I don’t have kids yet. But my wife and I have looked at what visual AI can do, and it’s clear to us. This is the kind of thing we would want in our kids’ school, whether it’s an elementary school, middle school, high school, or college. It’s going to make a difference.” 

SparkCognition appreciates the thoughtful leadership David Hinds demonstrated as he met with Texas lawmakers during the drafting and passage of this significant school safety bill. We applaud the staff and elected officials who joined forces to make it happen. 

If you have any questions for David on what’s inside HB3 or about SparkCognition Visual AI Advisor for school safety, please contact us. And if you are attending the 2023 Texas School Safety Conference next week in San Antonio, stop by our booth to continue this conversation. We would love to hear from you! 

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