Recent school shootings and a gun control debate have raised concerns about school safety in recent weeks; and just days after the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Connecticut, the Texas School Safety Center issued reports of school districts who failed to submit safety plans or meet audit requirements. One district in the Brazos Valley didn't pass the audit.
"I've issued this letter to all 78 of those school districts, updating them on what the law requires, and the absolute necessity that they comply with that law immediately," said Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on December 17th.
The letter lists Centerville ISD as one of the districts not in compliance with the state, which means either the state does not have a copy of the district's safety plan on file, or finds the plan inadequate.
Since the audit was released on December 17th, News 3 has made numerous attempts over the last three weeks to hear the district's side of the story -- and more importantly -- get educated on what exactly the non-compliance status means.
Thursday afternoon the district finally addressed our questions to share their side of the story. Superintendent Cathy Nichols not only cleared the air, she confirmed there is and has always been a plan in place.
"Safety is our number one concern at Centerville ISD," said Nichols. "Centerville is such a small town; we've got our own children in these schools; and of course, we are going to do anything and everything in our power to protect them while they are here."
There are approximately 1,025 public school districts in Texas; and every three years, the Texas Education Code requires each district to submit a comprehensive safety plan of action. The audit gives the state reassurance that emergency procedures are taken seriously, they are in place; and in the event something ever happens -- the administrators and staff are trained and prepared -- to take appropriate action.
Nichols says the number "zero" was entered instead of the number "two" on the online audit form. She said that number represents how many 'instructional' facilities, or total number of schools that are in operation within the district. A submission of zero, she further explained, would mean there are 'zero' schools' inside the district -- and of course, that is inaccurate information.
"There was a little glitch and the online system kicked it back and it wasn't submitted," explained Nichols. "We weren't notified of it until the state released their audit results and since then, I have been in touch with the Texas Center for School Safety and hopefully they will update the list to the Attorney General's Office."
The Texas School Safety Center was created in 1999 in the aftermath of the Columbine shootings in Colorado. The state education code requires public schools conduct safety audits once every three years.
Abbott's office says 38 of the state's 1,025 public school districts have filed no audit. Another 40 reported but aren't in compliance.
Another 40 Texas school districts didn't meet the reporting requirements, authorities said in a statement. The state's public schools are mandated by the Texas Education code to perform safety audits once every three years