Texas school safety measures are largely left to its more than 1,200 public school districts and charter schools, although the state requires contingency plans and safety exercises – and only certain individuals are allowed to carry weapons in schools.
Here’s a breakdown of general school safety measures in the state.
While Texas leaders have loosened gun laws, including by removing the gun license requirement in 2021, schools are generally considered gun-free zones under federal and state law, except in certain circumstances.
A 1990 federal law prohibits school-owned firearms or within 1,000 feet of public and private schools, but the law makes exceptions for law enforcement and licensed persons. Other exceptions include if the weapon is not loaded and locked or if the person has been authorized to carry a weapon from the area. Texas also generally prohibits guns when conducting school-sponsored activities unless a person is released.
Teachers and school staff can carry weapons under a state program for school marshals, which is overseen by the Texas Law Enforcement Commission and requires 80 hours of training. Another state law from 2021 now allows school marshals to carry hidden weapons around students instead of storing them in lockers.
School districts may also adopt their own policies allowing certain individuals to carry weapons in their buildings. Policies, often referred to as “guardian plans,” are determined by district and do not have uniform requirements, said Katie Martinez-Prater, director of the Texas School Safety Center. In most cases, school districts use this option to authorize peacekeepers in school district police departments to carry weapons, but it can also be used to empower other school staff, according to the Texas School Board Association.
School safety measures depend to a large extent on individual school districts, but the state requires them to adopt certain policies.
“There’s not one aspect of school safety that meets the needs of all campuses, so the state has an approach that’s really broad about the different options that schools use,” said Joy Baskin, legal director of the Texas Association of School Councils. .
Since 2005, the state has required schools to have contingency plans in place, said Martinez-Prater of the Texas School Safety Center.
The Texas School Safety Center, a research center at Texas State University, was established after the Columbine School shooting in 1999 and was tasked by the legislature in 2001 to collect and disseminate school safety information, Martinez said. Prater. The center evaluates school safety and provides research and free training.
Emergency plans should outline emergency management, staff training and safety training in disasters such as natural disasters, Martinez-Prater said. After a shooting at Santa Fe High School in 2018 left 10 dead and 13 injured, lawmakers also required schools to outline responses to active threats and instructed the center to review plans for an emergency operation.
School districts are also required to conduct safety and security audits every three years. The Texas School Safety Center uses information provided by the districts to produce safety reports at schools across the state.
If a school district does not comply with the requirements or recommendations of the school safety center, they may need to hold a public hearing to address concerns or oppose the protection of the Texas Education Agency, Martinez-Prater said.
District plans and audits are not publicly available, but schools must provide a summary, according to the TASB.
“The reason for this is the last thing we want to do is reveal or provide plans to all the people who, you know, might be interested in going to school,” Martinez-Prater said.
Martinez-Prater said concerned parents could ask campus management about their school’s safety measures or contact the district’s safety and security committees. Commissions made up of school leaders and community partners as parents were also mandatory after the Santa Fe school shooting and must hold public meetings.
School districts must also complete two blockade drills a year, Martinez-Prater said.
In response to the shooting at a school in Santa Fe, state lawmakers also required each school to have a team to assess the behavioral threat.
Behavioral threat assessment teams identified by school boards are helping to identify immediate threats, but Martinez-Prater said they must also work on prevention.
“It’s about connecting students with the right support and interventions to get them out of the path to violence so they can be successful in the educational environment,” she said.
State lawmakers have also called for more communication on school safety, training and mental health resources following the Santa Fe school shooting, but turnover and staffing constraints are complicating efforts, Baskin said.
“Currently, there is a shortage of staff in schools for all kinds,” she said. “But especially in the state, there are places where it is very difficult to get mental health services. So expanding that access is a real priority. “
The presence of law enforcement and school security is left to every school district in Texas. School districts may choose to hire school resource officers who report to a local law enforcement agency, or commissioned peacekeepers who often report to school district leaders. Both are licensed by the Texas Law Enforcement Commission and receive training from the Texas School Safety Center, according to the TASB.
Schools may also hire or contract with security officers who are not licensed by the Texas Law Enforcement Board, but may be required to be registered and inspected by the Texas School Safety Center.
Martinez-Prater said 333 districts had reported to the center that they had their own police department, and the center had also noticed an increase in school districts that were implementing “guardian plans” to appoint certain people to arm.
If employees work in a school district, one employee can be hired for more than one school, said Linel Sparks, executive director of the Texas Association of School Resources Employees.
“It comes down to, unfortunately, funding, and then it takes a specific person to be that employee to be in this school,” she said.
Schools are not required to lock entrances or doors inside buildings, but Martinez-Prater said this is considered best practice to repel intruders.
“Locking the doors during the day, the classroom doors during training is also another time barrier and one step less when we get stuck,” she said.
Schools may also use metal detectors, but experts warn that no tool or measure will fully address school safety.
“The most important thing is to build a relationship and stop something from happening before it happens,” Sparks said.
Disclosure: The Texas School Board Association is a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a non-profit, non-partisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in Tribune journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Texas has some safety requirements for public schools – but leaves most of the details to education officials
Source link Texas has some safety requirements for public schools – but leaves most of the details to education officials