Most Texas public schools reviewed this fall passed random inspections meant to detect whether an intruder could gain access to campuses.
However, more than a quarter of them — or about 800 schools — still need to make improvements, according to a new report from the Texas School Safety Center.
Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the random inspections in the wake of the deadly Uvalde mass shooting in May where a heavily armed gunman gained access to Robb Elementary School.
Meghan Mangrum, who works in the Education Lab at the Dallas Morning News, said about 3,000 campuses were audited in the fall. The center’s goal is to audit 75% of the roughly 8,000 schools across the state.
While the audits are a surprise, Mangrum said the center gives a general heads up to avoid causing panic.
“They didn’t want to create any fear. You know, you have a random person trying to get into a school. So they did give districts and maybe some local law enforcement, depending on the community, a heads up,” she said. “But they did want them to also be unannounced, because when you know someone’s going to show up, you’re on your best behavior. That’s human nature. So they really wanted it to be realistic while kids were on campus.”
Of the schools who didn’t pass the audit, there were about 75 schools where auditors were able to gain unauthorized access to campus in under two minutes, Mangrum said.
“It looks like typically they were able to get onto campus through a secondary door. So instead of going through the main office, they were going through maybe a side door or another building,” she said. “They notified districts when that happened. And there’s sort of a process for how districts have to address that.”
The center has not announced which districts or campuses need corrective action. This is part of a wider trend of districts being tight lipped when it comes to school safety information, Mangrum said.
“Some districts have released, you know, ‘hey, this is how many schools have been audited, this is how many passed, this is how many didn’t.’ Others haven’t. Up here in Dallas, we haven’t been able to get those numbers from Dallas ISD,” she said. “So we don’t, in most cases, have a list or know what schools passed and what schools didn’t.”
Mangrum said it is still a bit too early to have a full sense of the reaction from lawmakers and parents in response to this report. However, she said she expects school safety to remain a priority going forward.
“We know that school security is going to remain top of mind for both parents and lawmakers for the foreseeable future,” she said.