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Saving Lives When Seconds Count: School Safety for Texas Schools

From the Office of Greg Abbott, Attorney General of Texas

October 2, 2007

Government - Attorney General Greg Abbott pictureAUSTIN–We are fortunate that Texas schools have not experienced tragedies like those at Columbine and Virginia Tech. Those horrific incidents are a warning that we need to be prepared. The Office of the Attorney General and the Texas School Safety Center have joined together to produce new school safety materials for Texas schools.

Government - school safety video picture The School Safety Video, Saving Lives When Seconds Count, can be used to help teachers, administrative staff, parents and others understand the critical importance of effective emergency procedures and planning.
Government - school safety guide picture
The School Safety Guide is a practical overview of the duties and responsibilities of school officials in the area of school safety. It includes information about Texas Education Code 37.108, which requires that all schools complete a security audit by August 31, 2008.
Government - school safety toolkit picture The Campus Safety and Security Audit Toolkit developed by the Texas School Safety Center provides school administrators with a detailed checklist for reviewing their emergency preparations and assembling their school's incident command kit.
Government - school crime handbook picture The School Crime and Discipline Handbook explains the laws applicable to Texas public schools. Updated to reflect laws passed during the 2007 legislative session

These materials are being mailed to all Texas school superintendents and principals on CD and DVD this fall to assist them in completing legislatively required school safety audits for all school district facilities.

Campus Crime Stoppers

Prevention is the key to keeping our schools safe. When violence erupts, the signs are usually there ahead of time. Students and staff alike need a safe, effective way to report incidents or behaviors that concern them.

We urge all Texas schools that do not yet have a Campus Crime Stoppers Program to consider creating one. Visit the Texas School Safety Center for assistance in establishing and publicizing a central anonymous tip-line for reporting bullies, threats, assaults, and other crimes on the school campus.

Saving Lives When Seconds Count

Our goal is prevention, but we must also be prepared. When seconds count, we must be ready with emergency response plans that are thorough, practiced and efficient. It is not enough for schools to establish internal policies and procedures. Collaboration with local law enforcement is essential. The Attorney General recommends that all Texas schools conduct emergency response drills with law enforcement at least annually.

Texas Teen Page

The Attorney General's Office has just launched a new Teen Page for middle school and high school students. The new website complements the Attorney General Kids' Page launched in 2006.

Loaded with videos and real stories about real teens, the Teen Page tackles tough issues with direct answers and a positive outlook. The site offers sections on healthy relationships, how to be a leader and a smart consumer, and where to find help with a wide variety of issues, from alcohol and drugs, to gangs, bullies and dating violence.

Content has been adapted from the Attorney General's award-winning Consequences curriculum on the juvenile justice system. This section presents information about careers in justice alongside video interviews with real teen offenders in the system.

“Know the Law” pages are designed to teach students the difference between harmless fun and illegal or dangerous behavior.

The Teen Page also includes a section based on another award-winning Attorney General curriculum for public schools. Parenting and Paternity Awareness (PAPA) teaches young people about the realities of parenthood. The PAPA curriculum offers support and helpful information for teenage and single parents while sending a clear message from the young parents themselves about the importance of waiting until they are ready to assume legal, emotional and financial responsibility for a child.

Privacy vs. Information-Sharing

The federal privacy laws HIPAA and FERPA protect the privacy of a student's educational and medical records, but in some cases, information sharing can be critical to protecting the health and safety of an entire campus.

The recent tragedy at Virginia Tech has brought into focus the need for a careful review of both state and federal statutes on information sharing. Knowledge of a student's disciplinary and/or mental health status can be critical to the accurate assessment of risk.

School administrators faced with reports of disturbing or threatening behavior can work closely with state and federal authorities to ensure that medical and disciplinary records are available to key members of the school safety team, to the extent possible under the law.
For more information:

- FERPA (US Department of Education)
- HIPAA (US Health and Human Services)

The Attorney General's School Safety Guide includes a section called “Notification of a Potentially Dangerous Student.”

NAAG Task Force on School and Campus Safety

The National Association of Attorneys General has drafted recommendations for preventing and responding to incidents of school violence. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott joins NAAG in supporting these recommendations. The recommendations can be found in the Draft Final Report of the NAAG Task Force on School and Campus Safety.

The Office of the Attorney General is committed to providing Texas schools with the information and tools they need to keep children safe. Children must have a safe and positive learning environment in order to receive the education they deserve.

For more information, visit the Office of the Attorney General's Web site at

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