Marilyn Tennissen Dec. 18, 2012, 11:22am

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he was “shocked to learn” that 78 Texas school districts, including the Beaumont Independent School District, have failed to meet state-mandated safety measures.

Abbott addressed the issue in the wake of the school shootings of 20 first graders and six faculty members in Newtown, Conn., last week.

“Every day they are not in compliance, they are putting our kids at greater risk,” Abbott said at a news conference in Austin on Monday.

The Beaumont Independent School District, with 20,000 students, is the largest district found to be out of compliance. Houston’s North Forest ISD with a student population of about 7,600 students, was the other urban district not in compliance. Most of the other districts are small, rural districts, Abbott said.

All of the districts in Texas must submit a safety plan every three years to the Texas School Safety Center, created after the 1999 Columbine high school shooting. Abbott reported that 38 districts -- including BISD and other Southeast Texas districts Evadale, Kirbyville and Warren -- filed no safety plan at all.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said shortly after the Newton shootings that schools should arm “more police officers, security guards and responsible citizens,” according to an article in the Houston Chronicle.

Under the federal Gun-Free Schools Act and state law, school districts can grant written permission for anyone, including certain employees, to carry firearms on campus. At least one district in the state — Harrold ISD, which about 100 students and is located near the Texas-Oklahoma border — has a policy that allows teachers to carry concealed handguns, according to Abbott’s press release.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he supported allowing teachers to carry handguns on campus, and believes the decision should be made at the local district level.

Perry also stated that the federal government should be cautious about tightening gun laws.

"One of the things that I hope we don’t want to see from the federal government is a knee-jerk reaction from Washington, D.C., when there is an event that occurs, that they can come in and think they know the answer,” he said, according to the article.

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