DALLAS — School districts should conduct weekly checks of exterior doors to ensure they are secure, Gov. Greg Abbott told the state’s education commissioner in a letter sent Thursday.
Abbott’s directive comes after news that the Uvalde shooter entered through a closed exterior door at Robb Elementary School last week before carrying out the deadliest school shooting in state history.
Reports initially emerged that he entered through a door that was propped open, although that claim has now been walked back.
In his letter, the governor told Education Commissioner Mike Morath to instruct school districts on security boosting actions they can take prior to the start of next school year, although he offered no additional details on what actions he wanted implemented.
The Texas Education Agency should also encourage administrators to increase the presence of trained law enforcement officers and school marshals — district employees who can carry firearms in classrooms — on campuses, Abbott wrote.
Texas already has two ways that school staff can carry firearms while on campus, but both programs require school districts to opt in. Since the Uvalde shooting, Republican state leaders have been pushing proposals that would arm additional staff.
Having an armed guard on a campus doesn’t guarantee stopping a school shooting. During the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, an armed school resource officer never went inside the campus or attempted to engage the gunman during the attack.
Abbott directed TEA to determine the cost of school districts to comply with heightened safety standards for existing facilities.
“The Office of the Governor and the Texas Legislature need this critical information to determine the best ways to secure our schools and how to properly allocate funding,” Abbott wrote.
Texas offers little state funding to school districts to shore up campus security. Following the 2018 Santa Fe High School shooting, lawmakers approved a one-time $100 million grant program, but divvied up, that funding can be minimal for each of the state’s more than 1,000 school districts.
Meanwhile, a newly created per-student safety allotment funneled $50 million to Texas’ districts and charters in the 2021-22 year. Districts often have to raise their own money to pay for security improvements and staffing.
A law passed in 2019 required the state education agency to adopt new building standards for facilities built in 2021 and on. The state should do the same for existing campuses, Abbott wrote.