Since the start of the 2022-2023 school year, state-hired inspectors have visited Texas schools to examine their security measures as part of a new statewide safety protocol. Auditors inspected four elementary schools of the 22 total Mission CISD campuses already.
In June, Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas School Safety Center to conduct the audits, exposing weak entry points on campus. The directive came after the May 24 Uvalde mass shooting, where a gunman entered Robb Elementary School and fatally shot 19 students, two teachers and wounded more. Rather than addressing gun control, the Texas government has focused on school security, with intruder detection audits among the newest initiatives.
During the inspection, the surveyor tests four items:
- Unsecured access gained to schools
- Unsecured exterior doors
- Documentation of weekly exterior door sweeps from the last 30 days
- Unlocked classroom doors
The inspections are random, unannounced and in person. The auditor wears civilian clothes and is unarmed during the process, but they move from door to door, checking to see if they can enter the building.
According to Mission CISD Director of Public Relations and Marketing Craig Verley, the standard protocol in the district is an automatic locking mechanism for all classroom doors.
“Mission CISD required all classroom doors to remain closed and locked during the school day when students are in the classroom several years ago. While anyone in the classroom can easily exit without a key, the only way to enter a closed classroom is with a key or if someone opens the door,” Verley said. “This was among the early security measures taken by the district years ago.”
Before the assessment, the TxSSC alerts district administration and local law enforcement of the inspection ahead of time, but they will not notify the specific campus of the audit. If a school official approaches and questions the inspector during the audit, they will reveal the nature of their visit.
Verley explained that although the students and staff are unaware of the inspection as they’re happening, the simulation is harmless.
“These audits are done in a nonthreatening manner to test the outer security measures and how the campus responds to anyone trying to enter where they shouldn’t,” he said.
According to the TxSSC’s audit toolkit, multiple auditors may be on location during an inspection. The entire audit may take more than one working day and should occur during regular school hours when students and staff are present. TxSSC requires the auditing team to minimize disruption to campus activities. But an auditor may return to campus if all the areas of the school were not available at the time of the original assessment.
In addition to examining entry points, the inspector will also document visitor management procedures. The assessment can identify areas that need improvement through the observation of staff and student response to an unauthorized person in the facility.
Following the inspection, TxSSC provides an audit report to the district, which they require administration to share with the board. Regarding the four Mission CISD campuses that already underwent inspection, Superintendent Dr. Carol Perez said the results were favorable, but she did not publicly discuss the details.
“Anything with safety is done in executive session,” the superintendent said. “However, we would like to report that the individual was not able to get into any of these campuses. All of the doors were locked.”
The state plans to audit all districts by December and 75% of all public and charter campuses by May 2023.