Since the tragic events at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, earlier this year, safety has been a top priority for schools across the country. In Texas, lawmakers have allocated more money to safety spending in an effort to make campuses safer.
But is it working? Are schools getting safer? Let's take a look at the numbers.
School Safety in 2022
The Texas Education Agency reports on the number of safety incidents in schools during the academic year. That number includes everything from fights and bullying to more serious offenses like sexual assault and weapons violations.
And although prominent cases make the news, the 2021-2022 school year was a relatively uneventful one. In fact, safety incidents have been on the decline in Texas schools since 2013.
Texas Education Agency Safety Concerns
In the past few years, school officials have adapted their safety and security measures to keep up with the times. In most cases, this meant adding health and safety protocols in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing cyberbullying.
Of course, safety concerns aren't limited to traditional campus safety issues. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to adapt their safety protocols to protect students and staff from the virus.
As of September 2020, all public school districts in Texas are required to have a COVID-19 safety plan in place. These plans must be updated regularly and cover everything from mask-wearing and social distancing to cleaning and disinfecting procedures.
Another safety concern that has emerged in recent years is online harassment. With more and more students using social media and other online platforms, there's been an increase in cyberbullying and other forms of digital harassment.
To combat this issue, many school districts have adopted policies that prohibit online harassment and require students to report any incidents they witness. Additionally, schools are working to educate students on the responsible use of social media and the importance of digital citizenship.
How School Districts are Adapting
Texas schools are facing safety challenges like never before. But they're also adapting in innovative ways to meet those challenges head-on.
For example, many districts are now using safety assessments to identify potential risks on campus. These assessments can help schools make necessary changes to their safety plans and make sure resources are being used effectively.
Texas School Safety Center Resources
The Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) is a statewide resource center that provides support and assistance to schools on a variety of safety topics.
The TxSSC offers a wide range of services, including safety training, threat assessments, and school safety audits. Additionally, the TxSSC provides resources for students, parents, and community members on topics like bullying prevention and emergency preparedness.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in safety spending by Texas school districts. Schools have invested heavily in items like security cameras, school resource officers, and emergency drills to combat gun violence.
This has included campus updates to school buildings, including the addition of metal detectors, bullet-resistant glass, securing exterior doors, and other physical improvements. While physical security measures are a good first step, other school safety organizations and education advocates have pushed for better mental health resources and gun control.
After a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas killed 10 in 2019, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 11. The bill was meant to expand school safety practices.
In June of 2022, it was announced that Texas legislators had agreed to spend more than $100 million on school safety and mental health. The Texas Child Mental Health Consortium, established by State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, will receive additional resources under the newly announced plan, which was established to address school safety and mental health in Texas.
Addressing Gun Violence and Mass Shootings
Gun control advocates are skeptical that the spending will do much to address school shootings. In fact, the funds from the Texas Education Agency’s budget surplus will go toward providing schools with resources that Uvalde CISD already had when the devastating shooting took place in May.
Of the more than $100 million, only $7 million will go toward campus safety assessments, while $5 million will go toward treating at-risk youth. Many teachers and advocates feel that state money could be put to better use than providing more funds to police.
Safety Programs in Texas
In the past five years, The Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC), an official university-level research center at Texas State University, has put increased funding towards a research portfolio on school safety. Over $8 million in funding has gone toward researching, assessing, and training mechanisms.
So Are Schools Safer? What the Numbers Say
Overall, the numbers suggest that schools are getting safer in Texas. However, school shootings rose to the highest number in 20 years. And with tragedies at elementary schools like Sandy Hook and Robb Elementary, community and political leaders are searching for ways to keep children safe.
And there is always room for improvement. By working together to identify safety concerns and implement best practices, we can continue to make our campuses safe places for learning and growth.