Texas public schools will be required to secure exterior doors, train staff on safety procedures and review threat response plans before the next school year begins under new school safety requirements issued by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) following the deadliest school shooting in state history.
The TEA released the new safety guidance Thursday, which requires school districts to conduct weekly exterior door sweeps, complete a summer safety audit and review emergency operations and active threat plans by Sept. 1. All campus staff, including substitutes, must also be trained on campus safety procedures.
Earlier this month, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the agency to require weekly campus door inspections in response to the Robb Elementary School shooting. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed after a gunman entered the school through an unlocked exterior door . Last week, the TEA also announced plans to check whether hundreds of thousands of external school building doors lock properly before the the start of the next school year.
Among considerations included in the TEA’s latest audit are how schools could provide first responders with quick access to keys as well as observing opportunities to “foster positive relationships” between school community members and campus law enforcement. Law enforcement in Uvalde has faced ongoing criticism for its response to the shooting, including allegedly waiting to breach the classroom where the massacre occurred for keys that may not have even been needed .
The TEA, Texas School Safety Center, and other state agencies are also working to expand “technical assistance for emergency operations plan development, conducting threat assessment protocols, expanding availability of school-based law enforcement, improving the efficacy of drills and incident preparedness exercises, and supporting [local educational agency] efforts in implementing multi-tiered system of supports,” according to Thursday’s announcement.
“We understand that the safety of students and staff is always the top priority of Texas public school systems,” TEA Commissioner Mike Morath and Texas School Safety Center Director Kathy Martinez-Prather wrote in a joint letter Thursday. “While the requirements described herein may be new to a few, we know that most schools in Texas are already implementing these actions and more to keep our students and staff safe.”
The TEA will be collecting data from the audit to evaluate changes that need to be made to facilities, which will be sent to state lawmakers in order to construct funding requests. There are more than 1,200 school districts in Texas and more than 3,000 campuses.
This week, Abbott and other state leaders announced the transfer of $105.5 million to support statewide school safety and mental health initiatives, which will help fund items like bulletproof shields, silent panic alert technology, safety audits and mental health services.