AUSTIN (KXAN) – The state education commissioner and the Texas attorney general on Monday said the deadly school shootings in Connecticut make it necessary for Texas schools to review their safety plans.
"In light of the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. ... it is imperative that we ensure the continued safety of all Texas students," Education Commissioner Michael Williams wrote on his agency's website. "Consequently, at the recommendation of Governor Rick Perry, I am directing public schools to immediately review district emergency operation plans."
Attorney General Greg Abbott made a similar plea and called out the districts that have not submitted their state-mandated school safety plans. Abbott noted that the Texas School Safety Center shows that 38 have not filed plans 40 others did but are not in compliance.
The only local district on the list is Coupland, a single-campus in eastern Williamson County that only has elementary classes.
"Proper preparedness and safety in our schools is not just an exercise, it will save lives when seconds count," said Abbott, who is a board member of the Texas School Safety Center.
"While we are saddened by the tragedy in Newtown, we can't let another second tick by without getting school districts prepared to encounter the same type of situation in our state. My office will continue working with the Texas School Safety Center to ensure that every school district across this state has an effective school safety plan in place."
The Texas Education Code requires that Texas public schools conduct safety audits once every three years. By requiring regular audits and emergency procedure practice sessions, schools and local law enforcement will be better prepared to act.
"Having a plan is important, but executing that plan under stress – when seconds count – is critical to saving lives," Abbott saod. "Texas schoolchildren must be safe and secure. The difference between life and death frequently hinges upon how educators and law enforcement respond in the seconds before and after a violent incident. Campus security audits provide crucial information about the proper response during disaster situations."
The Texas School Safety Center, created in 1999 in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy, provides schools with research, training and technical assistance to reduce youth violence and promote safety in Texas schools.
"Although Texas has not had to experience the extreme of Columbine or even Newtown, Connecticut, the vulnerabilities are still there," said Kathy Martinez-Prather, with the Texas School Safety Center. "The best way to prepare for that is to drill is to exercise is to make sure that your emergency operation plans are up to date."
As the state's chief law enforcement official, Attorney General Abbott remains fully committed to ensuring students are protected from school violence.
The freezing and near-freezing rain that swooped into Central Texas overnight prompted numerous school closings and delays and made for a harrowing morning commute on Friday.
A man is charged with murder in the shooting death Wednesday of a woman at a North Austin auto repair shop, police said Friday.
A man is expected to survive after being stabbed in the head at the Salvation Army shelter in Downtown Austin at about 3:45 a.m. Friday.
It's the first criminal charge following a yearlong criminal investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
With freezing temperatures pushing through the region, heating systems will likely be working overtime, which can bring rising energy bills.
Investigators are looking into an overnight fire that left one woman with third-degree burns.