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Education

Understanding Texas’ School Safety Policies: Key Points

Following the deadliest school shooting in Texas, legislators have enacted stricter laws regarding gun control and school safety. The House Bill 3, passed late last year, mandates armed security guards on all campuses and increases mental health resources for students.

In Texas, the Texas Education Agency, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, and the TxSSC are responsible for setting public school safety guidelines. These rules were updated after the 2022 tragedy in Uvalde, but experts are concerned that parents still lack detailed knowledge of school safety policies.

Brian Clason, Texas State School Safety Center’s program manager for training and education, advises parents to establish relationships with school staff to understand safety protocols before emergencies occur.

Here’s a guide for parents on handling emergencies such as active threats, natural disasters, or hazmat situations:

Parental Guide for School Safety: What You Need to Know

During an emergency, emotions can be overwhelming. The Texas State School Safety Center advises parents not to rush to the school but wait for instructions. Schools are mandated by the TEA to promptly inform parents via text, email, or app during violent threats. To ensure effective communication, parents should keep their contact information updated with the school.

In case of an active shooter, it’s crucial not to contact or text your child, as it could endanger them if they are hiding.

New Requirements for School Districts:

Recent legislation has introduced five new requirements for school districts:

  1. Employ armed guards at each public school campus.
  2. Install silent panic buttons in all classrooms for immediate connection with law enforcement and emergency services.
  3. Train select employees to identify potential mental health or substance abuse issues.
  4. Provide updated school campus maps to relevant authorities.
  5. Notify parents and designated individuals during violence incidents.

Emergency Preparedness:

All Texas school districts and charter schools must conduct drills to prepare for emergencies. These include:

  • One lockdown drill per semester
  • One secure drill per year
  • One evacuation drill per year
  • One shelter-in-place drill per year

Drill procedures vary depending on the situation. School districts determine the number of fire drills in consultation with fire marshals.

Armed Personnel on Campus:

All schools must have armed security officers, with the number determined by the district. School employees can also be armed under the school marshal program or guardian plan, subject to training requirements.

Emergency Operations Plans:

Each school district must have a multi-hazard emergency operations plan (EOP) compliant with TEA standards. A safety and security audit must be conducted every three years and reported to the school board and TxSSC.

Standard Response Protocol:

Over 45,000 schools nationwide use the Standard Protocol Response for emergencies, including severe weather and active threats. Texas schools can access guides and check if their practices align with this protocol.

Safe and Supportive School Program:

Implemented statewide, this program mandates each district to form a safety and security committee comprising emergency management, local law enforcement, and school representatives.

Understanding these policies is crucial for parents and guardians to ensure the safety of their children during emergencies.

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