Texas Private School Association member schools allowed to apply for safety grants from state
SAN ANTONIO – In the aftermath of the Nashville school shooting, there are many questions about security measures at private schools nationwide, including in Texas.
More than 20 San Antonio-area schools are part of the Texas Private School Association (TSPA). After another school shooting, the association, like many schools, is looking at its safety procedures.
According to law enforcement officials, the Nashville suspect shot out the glass of a side door of the Covenant School and crawled through an opening to get into the building.
Dr. Brian Guenther, president of San Marcos Academy and TPSA board member, said private schools often have more exposure streetwise when it comes to secure entrances for schools. That means they have to be in constant communication with law enforcement when there is any type of threat to their schools.
Guenther said most accredited private schools must have emergency plans in place, which include training and having direct communication lines with local law enforcement and emergency responders.
Another challenge is funding to harden their buildings or add security enhancements.
“All of that funding is not budgeted within our tuition dollars, and so we are faced with the challenges of raising those funds or applying for grants for those funds. And so not only that but having to work hand in hand with local law enforcement and emergency responders, we do that all on our own,” said Guenther. “We don’t have organizations that do that for us or the requirements that are not there for private schools in working with state and local officials. There are requirements when it comes to a public institution, but when it comes to a private institution, we have to work those channels all on our own.”
The State of Texas and Gov. Greg Abbott recently made funds available to private schools to help toward safety and security through grants. Another thing private schools have to consider is hiring their own security personnel.
“Most private schools have to either hire their own security firm or pay local law enforcement outside of their off hours. Our campus has an agreement with the county. We have an SRO (School Resource Officer) on our campus, but we went through a commissioners court, and we went through the county in order to make that happen,” said Guenther. “Not all private schools get that option or have that available to them. So most private schools in the schools that we work with through our credit accreditation processes have to hire their own off-duty police officers or sheriff deputies, or they have to hire their own security firms. Those come out of their own operational support dollars. Those come out of their tuition and fees for their families.”
Guenther said the main question he is asked by any parent looking to enroll their child in a private school is about campus security. He said they would continue working with their member schools to ensure they know of the funding available for security enhancements, protocols and technology.“Our job is to make sure that we have a safe place for our students to learn and to grow, where they love school and not hate school, where they love to be here and not afraid to be here every day,” said Guenther.