CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the Texas School Safety Center requesting action be taken to increase safety efforts at Texas school districts.
Following the shooting in Uvalde that killed 19 students and two teachers, Abbott sent the letter and said the tragedy "requires us all to do more."
"Though much has been done, there is a clear, convincing, and urgent need to continue and expand upon the work the TxSSC and school districts across the state are doing," the letter states.
Abbot's suggested new guidelines are outlined below:
- Ensure their School Safety and Security Committee meets to review their Emergency Operations Plan and address any campus safety needs. This includes reviewing their Active Threat plan.
- Ensure the School Behavioral Threat Assessment Team is trained and has reviewed procedures for each campus.
- Ensure that all staff and substitutes are trained on their specific district and campus safety procedures and that all drills are scheduled before the start of the next school year.
- Conduct an assessment of their access control procedures, such as single access points, locked instruction room doors, visitor check-in procedures, exterior door locks, etc.
- Complete these efforts by September 1, 2022, and certify this data to the TxSSC by September 9, 2022.
Among those guidelines, Abbott is also calling for a requirement from the Texas School Safety Center and Texas Education Agency to come up with a plan to do random, unannounced intruder detection audits at schools.
Those audits, Abbott wrote, should help staff to find weak points and how quickly they can penetrate buildings without being stopped.
Abbott said the audit will determine if schools are able to implement and follow their EOPs they submit to the state.
Among those against Abbott’s plan is Nancy Vera, the president of the Corpus Christi chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
“I think that’s an asinine idea,” Vera said.
She believes an unannounced intruder could scare staff and school children, and a better plan would be to put together a committee of police and parents to review school safety procedures.
She added Abbott should fund armed police on every campus that can respond to a school shooting.
“Well, it’s not just a matter of a deterrence, but a matter of having somebody professional who is trained - highly trained - to deal with those situations,” Vera said.
Conrado Garcia, superintendent at the West Oso Independent School District, said making sure his schools are safe is a top priority.
Garcia said he hopes the governor’s plan will help, but added he’s hoping the governor will provide guidelines that are more specific.
“We’re all concerned about school safety, all of us, no question about it," Garcia said. "I think every chance that the governor has, he has to speak about it, right? But it will be interesting to see."
The West Oso ISD does have a few security measures in place on district campuses.
Garcia said the district has Corpus Christi Police Department officers on every one of their campuses.
The district also holds mandatory active threat drills, with the officers.
Those active threat drills and a safety plan are discussed by a committee at the West Oso ISD at the beginning of the school year.
“We have the responsibility of taking care of thousands and thousands of children and thousands and thousands of staff,” Garcia added.
That responsibility he talked about includes safety measures like vestibule doors, that can only be opened by a person inside the building.
Faculty and staff also have key cards that allow them in the buildings. If somebody doesn't have a card, they can’t get in.
Garcia said he is considering adding a parent patrol team to campuses.
The team would help enforce safety measures, like checking doors to make sure they’re locked and monitor the hallways of schools.
Aransas Pass Police Chief Eric Blanchard said his department is on every school campus and daycare in Aransas Pass.
The APPD regularly checks gates, doors and walking paths to make sure schools are secure, which Blanchard said is similar to Abbott’s plan.
He added the department also provides staff and faculty with radios and train them on how to use them.
“That employee is responsible for working with the principal, staff, or administration at the (Aransas Pass ISD) to get those matters addressed…..they need to be that campus expert and liaison to the police department and school system,” Blanchard said.