After Uvalde tragedy, Abbott tasks experts with 'intruder detection' to better protect Texas schools

The audits are to see how easily an unauthorized person can get in. They are also looking at visitor check-in and out procedures.

Courtney Carpenter Image
Friday, October 7, 2022
'Intruder detection' audits in progress across Texas schools
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After the Uvalde shooting, Gov. Greg Abbott asked safety experts to conduct "unannounced random intruder" audits of Texas schools, which are underway.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As school safety continues to be on the minds of many parents, experts are working to find out just how easily an unauthorized person could get into your child's school.

Intruder detection audits are in progress across Texas.

"We are trying to see if we can gain unsecured, unauthorized access into a campus because we know that locked doors create a time barrier, and time barriers save lives," Kathy Martinez-Prather, the director of the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University, said.

Martinez-Prather said after the tragedy in Uvalde, Gov. Greg Abbott charged them with doing random inspections of Texas school campuses to see how easily an unauthorized person can get in. She said the unannounced visits started on Sept. 12 and hundreds of audits have happened so far.

SEE ALSO: Texas School Safety Center defends delays in accountability

She said the "intruder detection" audits are not as concerning as their name may sound.

"We are not sending inspectors to go in and simulate an intrusion. They are plain clothed, they are not armed, (and) they will not be trying to forcefully and aggressively enter a campus," Martinez-Prather said.

The audits are also looking at visitor check-in and out procedures and making sure districts are doing weekly exterior door sweeps.

So you may be wondering how Houston-area districts have done on these safety checks. Due to safety concerns, we don't know the specifics.

Spring ISD said they have had three of these audits, with findings at two of them. The district said the cause of each finding has been addressed.

Other local districts, including HISD, said they are not releasing information about the audits at this time.

Martinez-Prather says the random inspections will continue through the end of this school year, and they will put together a report about the trends they find.

SEE ALSO: 'Wow': Lack of school safety audit follow-up leaves lawmaker near speechless

"I think this is one piece to the larger puzzle, but it's foundational, it's basic and it can have a significant impact in saving lives when we think about access control," Martinez-Prather said.

So what else can we do? Parents, she says, can also help hold districts accountable.

"Parents, we have to educate them. 'No, you won't be able to see the emergency operations plan directly, that's a security issue,' but you can ask these other questions. Is it being reviewed annually? Who is reviewing that emergency operations plan?" Martinez-Prather explained.

This is part of the plan to work together towards safer Texas schools.

"I think we are at a point now where we know that we can't prevent these situations 100% of the time, but with all of these elements working together comprehensively, we can prevent them from happening in the majority of cases," Martinez-Prather said.

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