This story is part of a KXAN series of reports called “Stop Mass Shootings,” providing context and exploring solutions surrounding gun violence in the wake of the deadly Uvalde school shooting. We want our reports to be a resource for Texans, as well as for lawmakers who are agreeing a month after the events in Uvalde to discuss how the state should move forward. Explore all “Stop Mass Shootings” stories by clicking here.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting that took the lives of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary, lawmakers are set to come up with solutions before kids across Texas return to school from summer break.
KXAN surveyed more than 1,600 Texas educators from 106 counties on the confidence they had in their school’s safety measures. The Texas American Federation of Teachers helped in sending our survey out to its thousands of followers and members.
Educators revealed concerns about delayed maintenance repairs that leave schools vulnerable and gaps in staffing and mental health resources leaving students at risk.
While a previous study by the Texas AFT focused on educators’ opinions on law changes and gun reform, our study focused on their experiences with their districts and campuses, current approaches and handling of school safety.
The question of whether to arm teachers provided the most lopsided response in our survey. In total, 78% of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed with allowing teachers to carry weapons on campus.
A similar, but slightly reduced, number disagreed with arming school administrators. Just 10% of respondents agreed with arming teachers.
A majority of survey respondents told us their campus did not have adequate services to address mental health of students. A common theme was that school counselors are often used for other purposes — from administrative duties to scheduling to test proctoring — which leaves them little time to focus on the students themselves.
Only 18% said their schools were doing enough to support student mental health. Read some of the teacher’s responses below.
We defined physical safety measures in our survey as things like scan-in doors and locks for doors and windows. The results were fairly split: 43% of respondents said their campus had adequate measures, while 39% said they did not.
Maintenance of those physical measures was often brought up as an aspect of school safety that fell short. We heard from hundreds of teachers who said broken locks and AC systems put safety at risk because doors and windows have to be left open.
Each campus approaches security a little differently. Some districts have their own police departments. Others rely on local police or the sheriff’s office. Others have volunteer security guards.
One thing that is clear from our survey is that schools, especially at the elementary level, do not have enough of a security presence. Of the survey respondents, 67% thought their campus did not have adequate security personnel to keep students and staff safe.
While about 30% of survey respondents felt that active shooter training was adequate, about half said it is not. Several teachers told us the extent of their drills is to simply close the door and turn off the lights.
Here’s one anecdote from a teacher in an unidentified district in Hays County:
“At my former district, I was a district instructional coach. I did campus safety checks at principal requests on campuses that I was not known by the staff. I would attempt to enter the school (not through the front door). I would not wear a badge or anything identifying me as a district employee. My goal was to see if I could obtain entry and how long I could walk around a campus before being stopped. I did a half a dozen of these and gained access 100% of the time. I was able to walk campuses for 36 minutes (the shortest) and once finally stopped the timer at 2.5 hours.“
According to our survey respondents, threats made on social media are, for the most part, handled appropriately. In total, 57% agreed with the statement, while just 15% did not.
We also asked survey respondents to describe — in one word or phrase — what part of school safety needed the most attention on their campuses.
Some common themes really stood out: doors, entrances and locks; law enforcement and security guards; mental health and gun control. Thirty-five educators told us “everything.”
The word cloud below shows the variety of responses we received.
We didn’t specifically ask about gun legislation in our survey, primarily because the Texas AFT did in their own survey earlier this month. Still, several educators took the opportunity to share their thoughts in an open-ended question on our survey.
In total, we received 1,639 survey responses over a six-day period. Educators all across the state responded, from El Paso to East Texas, and from the Panhandle to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Responses came from 106 counties in Texas, highlighted in yellow on the map below.