AUSTIN (KXAN) — What’s being done in Central Texas to keep students and staff safe? Districts across our community are adding more security at our schools as the school year comes to an end amid the aftermath of the elementary school shooting in Uvalde.
Every Texas district is required to have a threat assessment team tasked with preventing horrific acts like the Uvalde shooting at local schools. Data obtained by KXAN shows of the 1,022 total districts – 80% (818) reported their board of trustees established a team.
According to the Texas School Safety Center, of the 818 districts that reported establishing a behavioral threat assessment team, over 90% reported members appointed to their behavioral threat assessment team had expertise in the following areas: school administration (n = 816), classroom instruction (n = 809), school safety/security (n = 801), behavior management (793), special education (n = 790), counseling (n = 783), and mental health/substance use (n = 746). Over 80% of those districts reported expertise in emergency management (n = 730) and law enforcement (n = 680).
The teams are tasked with identifying, evaluating, and addressing threats or potential threats to school security. The teams are usually comprised of counselors, teachers, principals, and school nurses. They are trained to help identify threatening behavior by students (current and former), parents, school employees, or other individuals.
The threat assessment team requirement came after the Santa Fe school shooting and the security bill Senate Bill 11 made optional training mandatory. It was passed by the Texas Legislature in 2019 and focuses on parts of Governor Greg Abbott’s School Safety Action Plan.
Elementary school teacher and mom Sarah Myers is fearful about heading back to the classroom after watching what unfolded in Uvalde.
“I’m sad, I’m angry and I’m just overall scared,” said Myers.
She had those same feelings in 2018. She says she was substitute teaching — just 19 miles away — when the deadly Santa Fe High School shooting happened. She knows first-hand that reporting any suspicious behavior or social media posts is key to school safety.
“You never know what they are going through, maybe we can help them and stop this early,” Myers explained. “You only see part of them [the student] and there could be so much more under the surface.”
She advocates for reporting any potential threat or issue especially in the wake of the deadly shooting. Districts like Hays Consolidated Independent School District are rolling out new technology to enhance the reporting system for its threat assessment teams. Not only will it help the district effectively track potential threats, but it will also help measure progress in resolving the threat.
“That’s what our goal is, we don’t want to lose our children by letting them fall through the cracks,” said Jeri Skrocki, Director of Safety and Security for Hays CISD. “We’ve had several incidents that have been counselor-based or discipline-based or even law enforcement based that have, in my opinion, thwarted a potential, very significant, crisis.”
Skrocki says the district has individual campus threat assessment teams and there is a district-wide threat assessment team. All of those teams were trained by the Texas School Safety Center. The district says the pandemic hindered training and tracking of the program since students were not in school for a long amount of time after the teams were implemented. The district says more of its staff are receiving training on how to investigate threats, which helps them identify why students are acting out and determine if their actions can lead to potential violent behavior.
“Self-harm is probably our predominant one, our counseling team is very busy with our outreach and education,” Skrocki said. “The mental health crisis is really probably our number one issue.”
When a threat is reported, it is addressed immediately and districts will develop a plan, do interviews with friends or family, and follow up as needed until the threat is resolved.
Current trainings for the threat assessment teams began this month and continue through August.