Investigation reveals which El Paso area schools don't routinely practice lockdown drills

Credit: MGN Online

Is your child’s school prepared for an emergency situation like an active shooter; KFOX14 Investigates uncovers the truth.

Chief Investigative reporter Genevieve Curtis dug through records for all El Paso area school districts and found some schools aren't following state recommendations when it comes to your child’s safety.

KFOX14 Investigates teamed up with Canutillo Independent School District as the safety team conducted a surprise drill at the middle school with El Paso police officers and sheriff’s deputies helping respond.

The drill wasn’t perfect, with a handful of students wandering the halls.

Canutillo ISD Police Chief Carlos Carrillo said the drills are used to make changes to keep students safe.

Carrillo said his schools practice lockdown drills at each campus, twice a year.

“If there's any kind of problem we are able to assess it,” said Carrillo

A 2005 law requires schools to adequately prepare students for emergency situations but stops short of saying how many drills are required.

The Texas Safety Center authorized by the state legislature to conduct safety audits and make recommendation, told KFOX14 Investigates it recommends schools conduct a minimum of two drills a year, one drill per semester.

A recommendation that’s been in place since at least 2012.

KFOX14 Investigates dug through three years’ worth of data for every district in El Paso County.

We found several districts haven’t been consistent about doing the drills.

Records initially provided by Socorro Independent School District show many of their campuses had one per year in the last two school years.

When we asked to speak to the superintendent, district officials directed KFOX14 to their emergency operations plan manager, Ismael Castro.

The district also then produced a new document for the 2016-2017 school year, showing but not all- campuses had two drills per year.

“A majority of schools have done the second one,” said Castro.

For the 2017-2018 school year, the list provided to KFOX14 Investigates shows campuses like Socorro, Montwood, Americas and Pebble Hills high schools haven’t had their spring lockdown drill.

The school year ends June 1.

At El Paso Independent School District, records show some elementary schools haven't done a drill at all.

“We have a lot of specialty schools and instructions it’s very difficult to try and get in there, we have to set up time with the principals,” said Manuel Chavira the Safe and Secure Manager for the district.

The data shows the district is inconsistent with how often the drills are performed.

Some schools show four to six drills over the last three years.

Others like Austin High School show one drill was conducted over a three-year span.

“We are doing two now,” said Chavira.

We asked to speak with the superintendent, but he was also unavailable.

Chavira said they are doing the drills, but there’s an issue with documentation, which came to light during our investigation.

“I think we've changed it because of the open records,” said Chavira.

The district is working on a centralized data base to keep records of the lockdown drills.

“We can see which schools aren't hitting the mark,” he said.

Tornillo Independent School District records show the district hasn’t done a drill at its intermediate school or junior high for the 2017-2018 school year at the time of our request; February.

The high school didn't have a drill until January for the 2017-2018 school year.

The elementary school had a lockdown drill in March, after we requested the documents in February, the first since the December of 2016. “Our district has a new administrative team that is committed to continue to make school safety a priority and with that premise,” said Rosy Vega-Barrio, Tornillo ISD Superintendent.

San Elizario Independent School District only conducted one drill per year for the last three years.

“The school year does not end until June 8th, so we still have time to conduct that other lock-down drill,” said Hector Gonzalez. Communications Officer for the San Elizario Independent School District.

Records for districts like Ysleta, Clint and Canutillo show they’re doing at least two or three a year at each campus, so kids become confident in their response.

“We've seen such an improvement in our campuses when it comes to these dills,” said Carrillo.

Something parents in the district tell KFOX14 Investigates, they're grateful for.

“They spend more time here at school than with us so they need to be safe,” said Myrna Ibara.

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