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More than a dozen Austin ISD campuses have undergone state-mandated security audits

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Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT

Austin ISD is addressing issues identified during recent state-mandated school security audits, officials said Thursday.

Jacob Reach, the district's chief of governmental relations and board services, told the AISD Board of Trustees that the latest round of inspections took place at 10 campuses.

"What we have seen this past round was around interior doors only. There were no exterior door findings,” Reach said.

Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas School Safety Center to conduct inspections at school districts throughout the state after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, which killed 19 children and two teachers. The center, based at Texas State University, gives school districts a heads up when the audits will occur, but it does not notify individual campuses.

Kathy Martinez-Prather, director of the Texas School Safety Center, told KUT that inspectors are seeing if they can gain "unsecured, unauthorized access to the campus."

Inspectors also check whether exterior doors lock and evaluate the procedures for checking in and checking out visitors.

“If the district does have a policy — administrative directive or verbal directive — to lock all classroom doors and keep them closed during the day, we will evaluate that, too,” Martinez-Prather said.

The inspectors checking out the campuses are in plain clothes, but will identify themselves if stopped by school staff.

School districts have 45 days to take corrective action if any issues are identified during the audit.

“It’s not about dinging a district or an ‘I got ya,'" she said, "because at the end of the day, we want to help districts remedy these potential weaknesses to enhance the safety and security posture of their campuses."

Once problems are addressed, the district must provide documentation of the fixes to the Texas School Safety Center.

Reach told trustees that one or more of the 10 schools that were recently inspected did have an issue that needed corrective action. He also said he would not be publicly sharing information about the campuses that needed to make changes, but said district officials had met with each of the affected schools. AISD’s school safety and security committee has met, too.

So far, the Texas School Safety Center has conducted audits at 21 Austin ISD campuses. Reach told trustees he expects to share information on another eight campuses during the next school board meeting.

“We do expect throughout the entire school year for 75% of our schools at a minimum to have a safety audit,” he said.

Martinez-Prather said the vast majority of districts haven’t had any issues since the safety audits began this school year. But she understands parents would be concerned if any issues are identified on their child’s campus.

“I’m a parent as well, and I understand that feeling,” she said. “I think that is one of the reasons why it is so important for the board to be able to communicate to the public that this has happened on our campus and communicating that we are taking those steps to address it.”

Republican leaders in Texas have focused on “hardening” schools, which includes arming employees, installing surveillance cameras and using metal detectors. In 2019, Gov. Abbott signed legislation that focused on hardening school facilities in response to the deadly 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston. A gunman killed 10 people and injured another 13 individuals.

After both the shooting at Santa Fe High School and Robb Elementary, Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick suggested fewer school entrances could help prevent shootings. Abbott and Patrick, who are both up for reelection, have resisted calls to strengthen the state’s gun laws in the aftermath of school shootings.

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Becky Fogel is the education reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at rfogel@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @beckyfogel.
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