School safety measures are largely up to individual school districts, but the state does mandate they enact some policies.
“There’s no one aspect of school safety that addresses the needs of all campuses, so the state has an approach that is really broad in terms of the different options that schools use,” said Joy Baskin, legal director for the Texas Association of School Boards.
Since 2005, the state has required schools to have emergency operation plans in place, said Martinez-Prather of the Texas School Safety Center.
The Texas School Safety Center, a research center at Texas State University, was created after the 1999 Columbine school shooting and was tasked by the Legislature in 2001 with collecting and distributing school safety information, Martinez-Prather said. The center assesses school safety and provides research and free training.
The emergency operation plans should outline emergency management, staff training and safety drills for hazards such as natural disasters, Martinez-Prather said. After a 2018 shooting in Santa Fe High School left 10 dead and 13 wounded, lawmakers also required schools to outline responses to active threats and tasked the center with reviewing the emergency operation plans.
School districts are also required to conduct safety and security audits every three years. The Texas School Safety Center uses information provided by districts to create statewide school safety reports.
If a school district does not comply with requirements or recommendations from the school safety center, they may be required to hold a public hearing to address concerns or face Texas Education Agency conservatorship, Martinez-Prather said.
Districts’ plans and audits are not made publicly available, but schools should provide a summary, according to TASB.
“The reason for that is the last thing we want to do is expose or make available plans to any folks that, you know, may be interested in targeting a school,” Martinez-Prather said.
Martinez-Prather said concerned parents can ask their campus leadership about their school’s safety measures or can look to districts’ school safety and security committees. The committees, made up of school leaders and community partners such as parents, were also required after the Santa Fe school shooting and must hold public meetings.