In response to legislation (Senate Bill 168) passed by the 87th Legislature, which mandated the adoption of procedures that a school district must complete prior to conducting an active threat exercise, as well as rules for best practices for emergency school drills and exercises, TEA released two sets of final rules meeting these requirements. The rules go into effect June 26, 2022.
Highlights of the rules regarding best practices for conducting emergency school drills include:
- Stipulating that mandatory school safety drills do not include persons acting as active aggressors or other simulated threats (as required by SB 168); and
- A list of suggested drill and exercise design elements, including:
- (A) physical and psychological safety for all participants;
- (B) planning in a trauma-informed manner to maximize learning and to minimize potential trauma for students and staff;
- (C) providing advance notification of drills and exercises;
- (D) planning for post-drill or after-action reviews of each drill and exercise; and
- (E) ensuring drills and exercises are age and developmentally appropriate with the understanding that more complex drills and exercises will require a hierarchy of learning to achieve or obtain more advanced goals or objectives.
The rules also specify the frequency with which each type of drill must occur:
- Secure drill — One per school year.
- Lockdown drill — Two per school year (once per semester).
- Evacuation drill — One per school year.
- Shelter-in-place for hazmat drill — One per school year.
- Shelter for severe weather drill — One per school year.
- Fire evacuation drill — School districts and open-enrollment charter schools should consult with their local fire marshal and comply with their local fire marshal's requirements and recommendations. If a district does not have a local fire marshal, it shall conduct four per school year (two per semester).
Highlights of the rules regarding active threat exercises
Adopted §103.1211 preamble (texas.gov) include:
- Defining “active threat exercise” as any exercise that includes a simulated active aggressor or an active shooter simulation;
- Requiring that school districts provide and post notice of upcoming active threat exercises at least two weeks prior to the exercise, including the date and whether the exercise will include a live simulation that mimics or appears to be an actual shooting incident;
- Requiring that schools make an audible announcement over the campus public address system immediately prior to the commencement of the exercise to signal the start of the exercise to the participants, noting that it is only an exercise and not a real emergency; and
- Requiring school districts to ensure that the content of the exercise addresses:
- input from multiple stakeholder perspectives in the design of the exercise;
- the physical and psychological safety of all participants before, during, and after the exercise, including: planning in a trauma-informed manner to minimize potential trauma for
- (a) students, staff, and other participants;
- (b) the development and communication of a predetermined method for participants
- (c) to withdraw from the exercise before or during the exercise; and
- (d) access to mental health supports before, during, and after the exercise; and
- the developmental appropriateness of the exercise that supports the cognitive and emotional well-being of each individual and considers the impact that prior trauma, grief, and crisis experiences have had on a participant's development prior to the exercise.