Nearly 3,000 Unannounced Intruder Detection Audits Conducted at Texas Schools
Auditors were able to gain unauthorized access to 75 campuses in under two minutes and 130 campuses within five minutes.
Most Texas public schools reviewed this fall passed random inspections meant to detect whether an intruder could gain unauthorized access.
According to the Texas School Safety Center Statewide Intruder Detection Audits report, inspectors were unable to enter 95% of the 2,864 schools they visited from September through December. However, auditors were able to gain unauthorized access to 75 campuses in under two minutes, and 130 of them within five minutes. In the 4.7% of campuses (136) where unauthorized access was gained, inspectors largely entered through a secondary door (86.9%) versus a primary entrance (12.5%).
Kathy Martinez-Prather, director of the Texas School Safety Center, said the goal of the audits is to ensure visitors are directed to the front entrance where they must check in, The Dallas Morning News reports.
“The intent of all this is to be a collaborative process with the school districts in order to remedy any issues that may be found,” she said. “This isn’t an ‘I gotcha’ at all.”
The report also determined approximately 28% — or 800 of the schools — need to make security improvements. At the time of the report’s release, 51.4% of those improvements had been addressed.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the random inspections a week after 19 children and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School when a gunman entered the school through an unlocked door on May 24.
“Your team should begin conducting in-person, unannounced, random intruder detection audits on school districts,” Abbott wrote in a letter to Martinez-Prather. “Staff should approach campuses to find weak points and how quickly they can penetrate buildings without being stopped.”
While the audits are a surprise, Meghan Mangrum, who works at the Education Lab at the Dallas Morning News, said the center gives a “general heads up” to avoid causing a panic.
“They didn’t want to create any fear. You have a random person trying to get into a school, so they did give districts and maybe some local law enforcement, depending on the community, a heads up,” she told The Texas Standard. “But they did want them to also be unannounced because when you know someone’s going to show up, you’re on your best behavior. That’s human nature. So they really wanted it to be realistic while kids were on campus.”
The preliminary report was released as state lawmakers convene in Austin for the legislative session with a budget surplus, some of which educators are hoping will be put towards school safety improvements. Back in November, Stephanie Elizalde, superintendent of Dallas ISD, said she wants the district’s $10 per-student allotment for safety needs to increase to at least $200. She said the money would be used to add cameras or security vestibules at front doors and to fund mental health support for students such as hiring additional counselors.
The center’s goal is to audit 100% of districts and 75% of the state’s roughly 8,000 schools by the end of the school year.
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