Texas Gov. Greg Abbott calls for school safety review in wake of Uvalde mass shooting

HOUSTON – School security and education officials in Texas have been instructed by Gov. Greg Abbott to review safety protocol district-by-district, following the mass shooting in Uvalde, according to a letter to the Texas School Safety Center Wednesday.

The Governor also instructed the Texas School Safety Center to “develop and implement a plan to conduct random inspections to assess access control measures of Texas school districts,” according to the letter, addressed to Kathy Martinez-Prather, director of the Texas School Safety Center.

Abbott instructed the TxSSC to ensure all school districts’ School Safety and Security Committees meet ahead of the new school year to review their Emergency Operations Plan and address any campus safety needs. He also called on the body to ensure the School Behavioral Threat Assessment Team is trained and has reviewed procedures for each campus, ensure all staff and substitutes are trained on their specific district and campus safety procedures and assess their access control procedures. TxSSC is instructed to provide a progress report of findings to the Governor’s office and the Legislature by October 1.

“The work and training provided by the Texas School Safety Center has reached thousands of schools and instructors and has benefited millions of Texas schoolchildren,” reads the letter. “However, the tragedy at Robb Elementary School last week requires us all to do more,” he said.

The letter requests five directives to be completed before the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

  • Ensure (school districts’) School Safety and Security Committee meet 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 locks, etc.
  • Complete these efforts by September 1, 2022, and certify this data to the TxSSC by September 9, 2022.

The letter cites legislation passed in 2019, following the 2018 mass shooting at Santa Fe High School.

“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 Governor wrote.

The Texas School Safety Center, or TxSSC, is a research center at Texas State University in San Marcos. According to its website, the TxSSC has authority, according to state law, and to oversee “key school safety initiatives and mandates. Specifically, the TxSSC serves as a clearinghouse for the dissemination of safety and security information through research, training, and technical assistance for K-12 schools and junior colleges throughout the state of Texas,” according to TxSSC’s website.

KPRC 2 contacted TxSSC Wednesday for comment regarding Governor Abbott’s directives and received the following statement:

“The Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) received Governor Abbott’s letter and shares his desire to ensure the safety and security of our schools. TxSSC is designing a program and action items to specifically address the governor’s directives within the prescribed timelines.”

Abbott’s letter to the TxSSC follows a separate correspondence addressed to Rep. Dade Phelan, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. That letter calls on Phelan to “convene a special legislative committee,” to “review what steps previous legislatures have enacted, what resources the State has made available to local school districts, and make recommendations to the Legislature and the Executive Branch so that meaningful action can be made…”

Specifically, Abbott’s letter cites five categories on which he wants the committees to center their focus:

  • School safety
  • Mental health
  • Social media
  • Police training
  • Firearm safety

State Senator Paul Bettencourt, who sits on the Legislature’s education committee, said the committees will work hard to address key issues.

“This will be a serious effort to look at exactly what happened, what went wrong, the laws that were on the books, what needs to be changed. There’s no question there will be done laws passed, the question is what,” Sen. Bettencourt said.

However, critics point to legislation passed following the 2018 school shooting at Santa Fe High School as proof lawmakers didn’t address the central problem: access to high-powered guns.

“We are asking the governor to do something,” said Ovidia Molina, president of Texas Teachers Association. Molina said those efforts weren’t strong enough to stop the gunman in Uvalde, adding teachers, students, staff, and parents deserve more.

“This isn’t the first time that we’ve had a tragedy here in Texas that we’ve had conversations about what is happening. We don’t need to have more conversations. We need to have action. We need to have changes. We need to make sure our schools are safe,” Molina said.

KPRC 2 reached out to five of the area’s largest school districts for details on their training and safety protocol: HISD, CY-FAIR ISD, KATY ISD, FORT BEND ISD, and ALDINE ISD. Three of the five sent detailed responses. HISD did not respond to the request in time for the deadline.

CY-FAIR ISD:

  • When was the last time CFPD went through an active shooter certification with the state?

CFISD PD officers have attended “Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT)” and also completed the state-mandated “TCOLE Active Shooter Response For School-Based Law Enforcement (#2195) Training”. In addition, officers train yearly for “Use of Force/Active Shooter” incidents.

  • When was the last time CFPD had an active shooter live training session? (Location – High, Middle, Elementary)

Officers train yearly for active shooter incidents and often use campuses.

In the summer of 2021, CFISD PD Office of Emergency Management held “Active Incident Training” for CFISD PD officers. CFISD PD Office of Emergency Management also conducted a “Reunification Functional Exercise” for a CFISD campus in the Spring of 2022. This functional exercise is planned for all CFISD campuses. This summer, officers will attend an active shooter response refresher course, with many officers also attending “ALERRT Training” and “#2195 Training”.

  • The state requires safety and emergency plans, when was the last one submitted to the state?

CFISD PD Office of Emergency Management submitted the District-Wide Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) to the Texas School Safety Center in 2020. In addition, each Campus Emergency Operations Plan is reviewed annually by the CFISD PD Office of Emergency Management to ensure up-to-date information. All EOPs are living documents and are subject to change each year.

ALDINE ISD:

The safety and security of Aldine ISD’s students and staff will always be the district’s top priority. Aldine ISD is fortunate to have its own full-time Police Department with multiple state certified trainers on staff. At least annually, all Aldine ISD police officers receive active-shooter training. District police officers received live active shooter training in June 2021 and will go through training again in June 2022.

The district’s Emergency Operations Plan is submitted annually to the Texas School Safety Center. The plan is updated and revised every year as needed. Last year’s plan was submitted in May 2021. This year’s plan will be submitted no later than June 30, 2022.

FORT BEND ISD:

All FBISD officers have completed an 8-hour School Resource Officer active shooter training course (SBLE 2195).

The FBISD Police Department is scheduled to host a number of local agencies and conduct ALERRT active shooter response training on an FBISD campus in June. The training location changes each time to simulate different floor plans, etc. The FBISD PD has six instructors who are qualified to teach the course.

Fort Bend ISD PD performs an integrated response training which coordinates the response from law enforcement, medical and first responders during an active shooter incident. The training simulates a rapid wounded evacuation exercise.

FBISD submitted its Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), which was reviewed by the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) and completed on March 8, 2022. The EOP includes: EOP Basic Plan, Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP), and the Communicable Disease Annex.

KATY ISD:

The safety and well-being of all Katy ISD students and staff is of the utmost importance on every one of the District’s campuses. Katy ISD implements all safety practices and guidelines recommended by the Texas School Safety Center. This includes mandatory safety drills and trainings, emergency operations plans for all campuses, as well as regular safety and security audits as required by the Texas Education Code.

Read the governor’s letter.


About the Authors:

Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. NOLA born and bred, though #HoustonStrong, with stops in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in along the way.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.