With the release of the Texas School Safety Center’s (TxSSC) District Audit Report (DAR) tool, it is important to remember that the audit process is more than a data collection tool for the Texas School Safety Center’s report to the State legislature. It represents the culmination of school district’s efforts to have campuses that are safe and secure environments in which to learn and work.
This process not only includes reviews and updates of emergency plans, but also assessments of campus access, risk reduction, and climate surveys. Guidance for many of these processes is available from the TASB Risk Management Fund as well as from the Texas School Safety Center. It is important that each district complete its audit using tools and guidance tailored to the unique needs of its community, students and staff.
Once a district completes its audit process, the results should be consolidated into a report that can be presented to the district’s board of trustees as outlined in Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code. This process should verify that recommendations made by the board for improvement of the plan are being or will be implemented.
The board report should follow open meeting and open records guidance set forth in Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code as well as Chapter 418 of the Texas Government Code, which identifies the emergency management information that is subject to open records. According to Chapter 418.004(10) of the Texas Government Code, as amended, school districts are considered Governmental Entities. In the subsequent Sections 418.175 to 418.183, Governmental Entities in Texas are provided specific confidentiality protections for emergency management and homeland security processes.
Additionally, Chapter 37.108 (c-2) of the Texas Education Code provides guidance about what audit information is subject to open records. This includes:
- The verification that the district has established a plan in coordination with state and local authorities.
- That the district has reviewed the plan within the last 12 months.
- That the plan addressed the phases of emergency management.
- That all employees are trained on the plan.
- That all appropriate drills are conducted.
- The district has established a plan for train derailment, if applicable.
- The district has completed the safety and security audit and reported the results to the board of trustees.
- The district has addressed any board recommendations for plan improvements.
- The district has established a visitor policy for district property and buildings.
The board report is an important component of the audit process. Since the safety and security audit period ends on August 31 of each three year cycle, if the information is not presented prior to end of the audit period, the district should place it on the board agenda for presentation as soon as possible following the end of the audit period. Statutory guidelines do not exist as to a time frame for reporting to the board, though best practices recommend that the report should occur sometime within the same calendar year as the audit report is due. With this in mind, the audit report provided by the Center asks for an anticipated date for this presentation.
For more information on TASB Risk Management Fund’s Emergency Management and Security program or for support on the District Audit Report, contact Melanie Moss at 512.505.2868.