Local 2 investigates school security

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - It may be thousands of miles away, but the Connecticut school shooting hits close to home because it could happen anywhere. It's why Local 2 Investigates is taking an in-depth look at security at Houston schools -- how far we've come and what you can expect to change at your child's campus in the coming weeks and months.

"I think we need to evaluate how easy it is to walk onto a campus," said Gayle Fallon, the president of the Houston Federation of Teachers.

In 2004, Local 2 Investigates tested security at schools across the Houston area. Working undercover and wearing a hidden camera, a Local 2 employee was able to just walk into three out five schools we selected and make his way to a specific child whose parents had approved the experiment.

Today, eight years later, it's a different story on most school campuses. Many newer HISD schools keep their doors locked. Cameras mounted outside let school staff see you. They can buzz you in once they find out who you are and why you're there. One principal we spoke with at an older school requested the camera and buzzer recently and got it. If your child's school doesn't have them, ask the principal why.

Some reports say the Connecticut shooter entered through a window by shooting it out. Metal detectors, cameras and buzzers wouldn't have stopped him.

"Given what we know at this point in time, I don't know what could have prevented that from happening," said HISD Police Chief Jimmy Dotson.

Dotson says it's impossible to predict and protect against every scenario, but with 200 officers covering some 300 campuses, that's the goal.

"We have to try to prepare for the what if's," said Dotson.

HISD does that by activating monthly drills across the district. State law mandates that every school conduct at least one drill every year. The Texas School Safety Center says the drills are the key to combating attacks. It's why school districts must provide an audit of their entire safety plan every three years to the state.

But we've learned, the following school districts never submitted an audit -- Anahuac ISD, North Forest ISD and Stafford Municipal School District.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott released the list of school districts missing safety audits.

Stafford MSD Superintendent Lance Hindt told Local 2 his district did complete the audit, but the district didn't receive information from the state about an update that needed to be completed. Stafford says an email mix-up caused it to miss an required update. It has now been sent in and the district's complete emergency response plan is posted on its website.

North Forest district tells Local 2 they did complete their audit. North Forest officials say they're trying to figure out why the district is listed.

Local 2 is still waiting on a response from Anahuac schools.

Even though the districts appear to be breaking a state law, the TSSC says there is no penalty for not submitting the audit. The Center's Director told Local 2 the Attorney General's Office is now looking into how it can compel the districts to comply. You can see the TSSC's District Audit Report at http://www.txssc.txstate.edu/K12/safety-audits.

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