I-Team: 1 in 7 North Texas school intruder audits had a "finding" but most not for unlocked exterior doors
FORT WORTH (CBSNewsTexas.com) – State inspectors have tried gaining access to hundreds of North Texas schools as a part of a surprise intruder audit program ordered by Governor Greg Abbott after the Uvalde school shooting. So far, more than 95% of the time inspectors found the schools' exterior doors to be closed and locked.
The CBS News Texas I-Team reached out to more than 40 North Texas school districts to see how local schools have so far fared with the unannounced audits. For the past six months, trained state inspectors have been conducting thousands of surprise audits at schools across Texas.
Last spring, an 18-year-old gunman walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde through an unlocked door before fatally shooting 19 students and two teachers. After the shooting, Abbott ordered the Texas School Safety Center to double check that schools across the state are locking doors.
Districts told the I-Team on average more than 40% of their campuses have so far had a surprise audit. Last month, the Texas School Safety Center reported it was on track to reach its goal of inspecting 75% of campuses sitewide by the end of the school year.
During most audits of North Texas schools, inspectors found no issues. However, few North Texas school districts were perfect. At one out of every seven North Texas schools checked, inspectors noted an issue that required a corrective action. The state calls it a "finding."
Local school districts told the I-Team most of the time the findings were not the result of exterior door being left unlocked. According to a recent report from the Texas School Safety Center, inspectors have only gained unauthorized access to a school in the north region of Texas (ESC 7,8,10,11) in less than 4% of schools tested.
Instead, schools told the I-Team inspectors noted a finding for such things as "not having the weekly door sweep log readily available for an inspector" or for "a door closing too slowly."
One of the most common findings, North Texas school districts told the I-Team, was for interior classroom doors being left unlocked.
State inspectors only checked interior doors at schools where the district had a policy of classroom doors being locked during instruction periods. Inspectors did not check interior doors at schools that did not have a policy.
According to the Texas School Safety Center, roughly half of all Texas school districts have policy on locking interior doors, including the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District.
"It's best practice," said the school district's police chief, Charles Ramirez. "What we instruct teachers to do is lock their classroom doors at all times. Even empty classrooms are required to be locked."
Out of the 16 campuses so far inspected in the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, inspectors noted a finding at six. Chief Ramirez said all findings were quickly resolved and, in most cases, it was due to an interior door not being locked.
Ramirez said districts, like his, are being graded on a different scale than districts without an interior door policy.
"It hard to measure apples and oranges if you have schools doing different things and being graded in different ways," he explained.
Chief Ramirez said, without a doubt, the state inspections are making his schools safer.
"What it does is it really allows us to have an outside perspective come in to help us. Maybe things that we're lacking, maybe things that we hadn't thought of, they're bringing to our attention," he said. "It's a great idea because unless you have someone from the outside checking, you may not know what you are missing."
School districts are required to announce if there's been a finding at a school at a public school board meeting. Districts typically have not specified which campuses had a finding. Some districts have not even reported how many of its campuses had a finding.
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