Starting this month, the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) will begin a statewide effort to perform intruder drills on school campuses. These drills, which will take place over several months, will focus on checking whether building doors are locked and secure.
Kathy Martinez-Prather, the director of the TxSSC, stated that during these drills, representatives from the agency will not actually go inside the buildings or simulate an active shooter.
Martinez-Prather told NBC 5, “We are not going to be simulating an intrusion of any kind. We are not going to have individuals dressed as threat actors carrying weapons, trying to forcefully enter a campus. These individuals are going to be trained, plain-clothed, and at any point in time if they’re confronted by school personnel will self-identify.”
The month before a drill is set to take place, law enforcement and the school district’s superintendent will be notified.
Martinez-Prather shared that having locked doors can save lives on school campuses, even if it seems like a minor part of school safety.
“We’re going to be checking to see if we can gain unsecured, unauthorized access to a campus. And while that seems like such a small piece to the puzzle, it’s a very significant piece because we know that locked doors create time barriers, and time barriers save lives,” she told NBC 5.
On August 31, TxSSC representatives and officials from the School Safety Readiness program, which is in charge of training the inspectors performing these drills, spoke to KVUE about how the drills will look.
The demonstration drill took place at Lehman High School in Kyle.
Nate Turner, the School Safety Readiness associate director, told KVUE the teams do not want to scare any students or staff when they show up on campus.
“I’m not wearing any kind of military uniform, not dressed in all black. I don’t have a coat on. I don’t have a hoodie on,” Turner said. “We want to make sure that we’ve put them at ease. We don’t want them to be nervous … We’re here checking to make sure that doors are secured and locked or, you know, that we cannot gain access and be an intruder or somebody that’s unauthorized to be on campus.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott began to advocate for increased school security after the deadly shooting at Uvalde that took place in May, The Dallas Express reported. He asked the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to work on getting more school marshals and police officers on school campuses.
Abbott also created the chief school safety officer role in the TEA, according to The Dallas Express. This position is tasked with ensuring schools across Texas comply with safety standards and guidelines.
“We all agree on one thing: we want our schools to be safe,” he said. “We agree we need to have the best safety standard programs in place, and we agree those protocols need to be followed. We will execute on all three of those components.”
The goal of the Texas School Safety Center’s inspectors is to check at least 75% of Texas schools by May.