After Uvalde shooting, Governor Abbott tasked agencies with immediately improving children's safety in schools

 In June, Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent several letters to various agencies tasking them with immediate action to protect Texas children in schools before the start of the fall semester. 

Immediate School Safety Review

Om June 1, 2022 Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to Dr. Kathy Martinez-Prather directing the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) to begin immediately conducting comprehensive school safety reviews to ensure all Texas public schools are following the appropriate procedures to maximize school safety.

In the letter to Dr. Martinez-Prather, Governor Abbott instructs that TxSSC ensure all school districts' School Safety and Security Committees meet ahead of the new school year to review their Emergency Operations Plan and address any campus safety needs, ensure the School Behavioral Threat Assessment Team is trained and has reviewed procedures for each campus, ensure all staff and substitutes are trained on their specific district and campus safety procedures and conduct an assessment of their access control procedures. TxSSC is instructed to provide a progress report of findings to the Governor's office and the Legislature by October 1.

"The work and trainings provided by the Texas School Safety Center has reached thousands of schools and instructors and has benefited millions of Texas school children," reads the letter. "However, the tragedy at Robb Elementary School last week requires us all to do more. I am charging the TxSSC, in coordination with the TEA, to develop and implement a plan to conduct random inspections to assess access control measures of Texas school districts. Among other reviews, your team should begin conducting in-person, unannounced, random intruder detection audits on school districts. Also, the TxSSC should immediately begin working with my office and the Legislature on recommendations to improve current security systems and determine the funding necessary to continue the work of hardening our schools against outside threats. Texans have never shirked away from a challenge, and I know with the support of state leadership, we can continue the work of improving each student’s experience in our schools."

Raise Safety Standards

On June 2, Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to Commissioner Mike Morath directing the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to ensure existing school facilities are held to heightened safety standards following the recent tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

"In the wake of this devastating crime, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that our schools provide a safe and secure environment for the children of Texas," reads the letter. "You should immediately prepare additional rules to ensure that existing school facilities are also held to heightened safety standards. We must do everything possible to protect children and safeguard our schools."

Governor Abbott specifically requested TEA to: 

- instruct school districts to identify actions they can take prior to the start of the new school year that will make their campuses more secure
- instruct all school districts to conduct weekly inspections of exterior doors to verify they are secure during school hours
- develop strategies to encourage school districts to increase the presence of trained law enforcement officers and school marshals on campuses.

 Chief of School Safety and Security

On June 9th, Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter directing Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath to create the position of Chief of School Safety and Security within the agency. The Chief of School Safety and Security will be a recognized expert on school security and public safety issues, an effective coordinator of multidisciplinary teams, a resource to school districts and the legislature, and effective at implementing programs. The individual serving as Chief of School Safety and Security will report directly to the TEA Commissioner and have a direct line to the Office of the Governor to ensure increased communication and collaboration among state agencies to provide a safe environment for Texas students and school faculty.

"The task of ensuring the safety of our schools and students is not solely held within one entity in the State, but encompasses many agencies and divisions, all with different charges and authority in implementing legislation and making recommendations for future policy changes," reads the letter. "While we have seen these agencies work together earnestly in the wake of the tragedy in Uvalde, a single point of contact to coordinate such efforts, now and in the future, would further improve their services. That is why I charge you with creating the position of Chief of School Safety and Security within the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The Chief must ensure that Texas schools are implementing the school safety policies passed by the legislature and take every action possible to ensure that schools are using best practices to safeguard against school shootings or other dangers."