Texas Education Agency proposes updates to school safety standards

The Texas Education Agency proposed an update to its school safety standards, according to a memo released last Thursday. The proposed rule lays out three targeted areas including facility, operating and maintenance requirements.

Following the Uvalde tragedy in May, where 19 students and two teachers were killed, state leaders have placed a greater emphasis on hardening schools, particularly after it was discovered that the gunman entered the school through an unlocked back door.

“The proposed rule would require that all school system instructional facilities have access points that are secured by design, maintained to operate as intended, and appropriately monitored,” the memo stated.

Here is a breakdown of the rule updates.

Exterior doors, exterior classroom doors and portable doors:

All doors are required to remain closed, latched and locked, and allow for emergency egress from the inside while remaining locked.

Roof doors should remain closed and locked when not in use.

Doors can be unlocked during the instructional day if they are actively monitored or within a secured area.

Windowed doors:

Doors on the ground level or windows that are adjacent to or near a door and are large enough to allow someone to enter if broken must be reinforced with entry-resistant film unless within a secured area.

Panic alert system:

All schools must have a panic alert system that can be manually triggered by campus staff. When set off, the system would immediately call 911 with a location of where the alert was triggered, alert administrators who can also direct law enforcement, and can simultaneously send an alert to all staff.

Other facility components:

All exterior doors must be numbered.

Radio signal repeaters must be placed where needed.

Schools must ensure there is an exterior secure master key lock box.

School districts will also be required to update their operations and maintenance protocols.

Per the new rule, each school must conduct exterior door sweeps weekly. Found issues must be reported to the school safety and security committee and the campus principal in order to address any deficiencies, it said.

Additionally, the exterior door numbering site plan must be developed and accurately maintained, readily available in the main office, and shared digitally with the local 911 entity.

Lastly, the school system must perform maintenance checks twice annually to ensure that the facility components within the rule function properly and as intended.

In June, Gov. Greg Abbott charged the Commissioner of Education Mike Morath with rule development to ensure existing school facilities are held to heightened safety standards, and to determine costs of more secure facilities in schools.

TEA said it will release a formula-based grant application in the coming weeks to support the school safety standards proposed rules referenced above.

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