Updated tool for informing parents of their rights under the new school safety legislation in Texas

Updated tool for informing parents of their rights under the new school safety legislation in Texas

The purpose of this newly-released school safety advisory is to inform parents of the mandated measures that their children’s schools must take to prevent and respond to acts of violence in the classroom.

Following last year’s passage of a new measure by the state legislature and its subsequent signing into law by the governor, the Office of the Attorney General issued the four-page recommendation.

For the sake of transparency, parent education, and the ability to hold school boards and administrators to account, it is important for parents to be aware of what their child’s school district is required to do by law. According to the recommendation, “parental engagement and involvement is critical to keeping schools safe,” even though no amount of preparation can guarantee that schools will be safe from all threats.

Every classroom in every Texas school district must have a silent panic alarm system that may contact the police, fire, medical, and emergency services in the event of an emergency, according to a state law. Additionally, some district employees are obligated to finish a mental health training program that teaches them how to recognize and assist students who they suspect are struggling with mental health issues and could endanger the safety of their school.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, local law enforcement agencies, and emergency first responders are entitled to a precise map of every school building and campus, and each district must supply this map to them so that they can use it for walk-throughs. If an incident of violence happens on school property or at an event put on by the district, they must also inform parents online.

School boards in all public school districts are also obligated by law to establish a sufficient number of armed security officers for each site and to make sure that one is present at all campuses during normal school hours. Every school district has the power to hire or keep trained police officers on staff, and some even have guardian plans or school marshal programs that let district employees carry weapons.

The Texas legislature found multiple failures on the part of school administrators and law enforcement leading up to and including the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde two years ago this May, and consequently, these legal requirements were enacted.

A multi-hazard emergency operations plan, outlining best practices for responding to several types of emergencies (including active shooter situations), is mandatory for all school districts. School drills and exercises to prepare students, a clear chain of command with one person designated to make final decisions in an emergency, and specific training for all school district employees are all necessary components of the plan. The Texas School Safety Center was established in 2022, and districts are also obligated to publish the results of facility safety and security audits. Public and school districts can access its safety training materials.

The center’s and the state of Texas’s school safety initiatives are being supervised by John Scott, the chief of school safety and security at the Texas Education Agency. Scott had a prior position as the head of the United States Secret Service’s Dallas/North Texas District; he was appointed to the position in October 2022 by Gov. Greg Abbott.

School resource officers, guardians, marshals, and other law enforcement professionals authorized to carry guns on campus and responsible for school safety have access to extra training through the OAG’s Law Enforcement Division.

“Take steps to ensure that your school district has complied with its obligation to create an EOP and conduct safety audits,” the advice says, offering a sample form for parents to use in their public information requests.

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