By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Gov. Greg Abbott is asking the Texas legislature to develop recommendations for school safety and other issues.
He’s also directed the Texas School Safety Center to review school safety procedures for all public schools after the mass shooting of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
The school was breached by the shooter, in part, because school safety procedures were reportedly not in place, including a door being propped open.
Gov. Abbott requested that special legislative committees be convened to examine and develop recommendations on school safety, mental health, social media, police training, firearm safety and more.
“As Texans mourn the tragedy that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde last week, we as a state must reassess the twin issues of school safety and mass violence,” he wrote in a letter to the leaders of the state House and Senate. “As leaders, we must come together at this time to provide solutions to protect all Texans.”
The governor directed the committees to evaluate laws previously enacted, resources already made available to school districts, and recommendations to implement to prevent future school shootings.
“It’s important to begin the process immediately,” he said. In the meantime, the Texas Rangers and FBI are investigating the crime and the response to it, he added.
Gov. Abbott also directed the director of TxSSC, Dr. Kathy Martinez-Prather, to immediately conduct comprehensive school safety reviews of all Texas public schools to make sure they are following the law to maximize school safety. The TxSSC, among other things, provides school law enforcement training and behavioral threat assessments to Texas public schools.
Texas “must work beyond writing words on paper,” ensure laws are being followed and “a culture of constant vigilance is engrained in every campus and in every school district employee across the state,” Gov. Abbott said.
State law requires school districts to create School Safety and Security Committees, which meet three times a year.
Gov. Abbott is asking Dr. Martinez-Prather to ensure that all committees convene this summer to review their Emergency Operations Plan. All School Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams are also required to be trained and review procedures for all ISD campuses, and verify that all staff and substitutes are trained on ISD and campus safety and access procedures. They are also required to provide a progress report of their findings to the governor and legislature by Oct. 1.
The TxSSC, in coordination with the TEA, is also tasked with developing and implementing a plan to conduct inspections to assess access control measures of all schools. This includes conducting in-person, unannounced, random intruder detection audits.
TxSSC and TEA staff have been instructed to approach all campuses to find weak points and how quickly school buildings can be breached. Doing so will help determine if schools are prepared to implement and follow the EOPs they’ve submitted to the state, improve accountability and ensure districts are following the law.
In 2019, the legislature passed a bill that Gov. Abbott signed into law giving the TxSSC expanded authority to audit EOPs. If a school district fails to submit an EOP, the law stipulates that it must hold a meeting to notify the public of its noncompliance. If it doesn’t, the TEA can take over school leadership.
Gov. Abbott said he was working with the TEA “to hold accountable any ISD that is not in compliance with these standards.”