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.
|The School Safety Video, Saving Lives When Seconds Count, can be used to help teachers, administrative staff, parents and others understand the critical importance of effective emergency procedures and planning.|
|The School Safety Guide is a practical overview of the duties and responsibilities of school officials in the area of school safety. It includes information about Texas Education Code 37.108, which requires that all schools complete a security audit by August 31, 2008.|
|The Campus Safety and Security Audit Toolkit developed by the Texas School Safety Center provides school administrators with instructions for schools as to how to perform the safety audits that are required by TEC 37.108 (SB11, 79R), and contains information about reviewing emergency operations plans.|
|The School Crime and Discipline Handbook explains the laws applicable to Texas public schools. Updated to reflect laws passed during the 2010 legislative session.|
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 Attorney General's Office has just launched a new Teen Page for middle school and high school students. The new website complements the Attorney General Kids' Page launched in 2006.
Loaded with videos and real stories about real teens, the Teen Page tackles tough issues with direct answers and a positive outlook. The site offers sections on healthy relationships, how to be a leader and a smart consumer, and where to find help with a wide variety of issues, from alcohol and drugs, to gangs, bullies and dating violence.
Content has been adapted from the Attorney General's award-winning Consequences curriculum on the juvenile justice system. This section presents information about careers in justice alongside video interviews with real teen offenders in the system. "Know the Law" pages are designed to teach students the difference between harmless fun and illegal or dangerous behavior.
The Teen Page also includes a section based on another award-winning Attorney General curriculum for public schools. Parenting and Paternity Awareness (PAPA) teaches young people about the realities of parenthood. The papa curriculum offers support and helpful information for teenage and single parents while sending a clear message from the young parents themselves about the importance of waiting until they are ready to assume legal, emotional and financial responsibility for a child.
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.
FERPA (US Department of Education)
HIPAA (US Health and Human Services)
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. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott joins NAAG in supporting these recommendations. 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.