We are fortunate that Texas schools have not experienced tragedies like those at Newtown, Virginia Tech and Columbine. Those horrific incidents are a warning that we need to be prepared. The Office of the Attorney General and the Texas School Safety Center have joined together to produce school safety materials for Texas schools.
These materials are being mailed to all Texas school superintendents and principals on CD and DVD this fall to assist them in completing legislatively required school safety audits for all school district facilities.
The Texas Education code has been amended to require school districts to report the results of their security audits under 37.108b not only to their school board, but also to the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) in the manner required by the center. In order to alleviate any potential vulnerabilities of a school district, the Center is in the process of developing a District Audit Reporting (DAR) Tool. The DAR tool will be beta tested June 2008, and will be active for districts to answer and submit the questions on line to (TxSSC) by the end of July 2008.
To review the questions on the DAR tool, please go to the TxSSC Web site and click on the Safety and Security Audit template.
If you have any questions pertaining to school safety security audits or the District Audit Reporting tool, please contact the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University- San Marcos at (877) 304-2727.
Prevention is the key to keeping our schools safe. When violence erupts, the signs are usually there ahead of time. Students and staff alike need a safe, effective way to report incidents or behaviors that concern them.
We urge all Texas schools that do not yet have a Campus Crime Stoppers Program to consider creating one. Visit Texas Crime Stoppers for assistance in establishing and publicizing a central anonymous tip-line for reporting bullies, threats, assaults, and other crimes on the school campus.
Our goal is prevention, but we must also be prepared. When seconds count, we must be ready with emergency response plans that are thorough, practiced and efficient. It is not enough for schools to establish internal policies and procedures. Collaboration with local law enforcement is essential. The Attorney General recommends that all Texas schools conduct emergency response drills with law enforcement at least annually.
The federal privacy laws HIPAA and FERPA protect the privacy of a student's educational and medical records, but in some cases, information sharing can be critical to protecting the health and safety of an entire campus.
The recent tragedy at Virginia Tech has brought into focus the need for a careful review of both state and federal statutes on information sharing. Knowledge of a student's disciplinary and/or mental health status can be critical to the accurate assessment of risk.
School administrators faced with reports of disturbing or threatening behavior can work closely with state and federal authorities to ensure that medical and disciplinary records are available to key members of the school safety team, to the extent possible under the law.
The Attorney General's School Safety Guide includes a section called "Notification of a Potentially Dangerous Student."
The National Association of Attorneys General has drafted recommendations for preventing and responding to incidents of school violence. The recommendations can be found in the Draft Final Report of the NAAG Task Force on School and Campus Safety.
The Office of the Attorney General is committed to providing Texas schools with the information and tools they need to keep children safe. Children must have a safe and positive learning environment in order to receive the education they deserve.