The TSSC said it will start randomly checking school buildings in September. The goal is to inspect 100% of school districts and 75% of campuses across the state by the end of the school year.
The new “random intruder detection audits” are part of a directive by Governor Greg Abbott to ensure school buildings are properly secured in the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde that left 21 people dead and 17 injured.
“Staff should approach campuses to find weak points and how quickly they can penetrate buildings without being stopped,” Abbott wrote in a letter to the school safety center.
At a quarterly meeting last month, Kathy Martinez-Prather, the center’s executive director, responded to concerns about what form these audits would take.
She told the school safety board, a group of public safety officials, governmental representatives, and educational representatives that the inspectors would not be conducting “simulation intruder assessments.”
“[It will be like] you and me going out there, just like a normal parent would, and ensuring that school districts keep external threats out,” she said.
Martinez-Prather added that district officials and law enforcement will be aware of the audits, but not the campus personnel.
After Gov. Abbott sent the letter mandating that the center conduct random checks, education advocates and lawmakers expressed concerns about unannounced people trying to find ways into a school building.
Clay Robison, a spokesperson for the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA), brought up potential attacks against auditors from school personnel who may perceive them as a legitimate threat.
Martinez-Prather responded that they have conducted these audits in the past and “we’ve never had a situation in all our years.”
Some critics remained unconvinced.
“There are many ways to make sure security procedures are being followed that are less intrusive and disruptive,” Portia Bosse, public affairs director for TSTA, said Thursday. “This is just continued distraction from the real failure of Uvalde and the real need for gun control in Texas.”
State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) initially expressed concern about directing “grown men to show up to schools unannounced and try as hard as they can to find a way in.”
Shannon Holmes, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, expressed concerns about campuses being in the dark regarding the audits.
“It’s a recipe for an accident if there is not some coordination between the local campus or ISD and whoever’s conducting the audit,” Holmes said.
Martinez-Prather told The Texas Tribune the state has authorized $7 million to hire seven staffers to be trained in how to conduct these audits.
The center hopes to test the audit process before the school year begins. In a letter to school districts, the safety center said schools will have an opportunity to fix any issues the audit discovers.