In May, a gunman killed 21 people — 19 students and two teachers, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. That tragedy intensified debates about gun laws and how to prevent school shootings, particularly in Texas.
When the next school year began in the fall, many people thought an initiative at Texas schools was related to that debate over school violence. School children in the state, people claimed, were being sent home with DNA kits so that law enforcement could identify them if they died in a shooting. A number of tweets, with thousands of likes, suggest the DNA kits were the state’s answer to school shootings like the one in Uvalde
Are Texas schools distributing DNA kits to identify children in school shootings?
No, Texas schools are not distributing DNA kits to identify children in school shootings. The DNA kits, which are not mandatory and kept at the child’s home, were first made available to parents in fall 2021 to help identify missing children.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Texas Education Code, as amended by Texas state Senate Bill 2158, tasks the state’s education agency with providing “inkless, in-home fingerprint and DNA identification kits” to all school districts, which parents or guardians of elementary and middle school students can receive upon request. These kits are for parents to hold on to in case their child goes missing, when they can then submit the kit to law enforcement to help locate the missing child.
The law, which was introduced by Republican State Senator Donna Campbell, has nothing to do with the shooting in Uvalde or school shootings in general. It went into effect Sept. 1, 2021, eight months before the state’s deadliest school shooting.
"It has come to my attention that there is some confusion regarding the intent of the Child I.D. Kits currently being disseminated at schools," Senator Campbell told KHOU. "The Child I.D. Kits for Safe Recovery Act was passed back in 2021 to provide aid in the reunification of missing and trafficked children. My hope is that these kits provide peace of mind to parents."
The Texas Education Agency told KHOU in a statement that the agency is collaborating with the National Child Identification Program to distribute the kits. The National Child Identification Program, which creates and distributes such kits, is a “community service safety initiative” created by the American Football Coaches Association, according to its website.
A sample of the ID card created by the National Child Identification Program has a spot for recording the child’s fingerprints, and a place at the corner of the card for the child to bite down on so a sample of DNA from their saliva gets on the card.
DNA collection is not unusual for child identification kits designed to help law enforcement locate missing children. For example, the Masonic Youth Child Identification Program includes a cheek swab with a Q-tip to gather DNA material. The Texas Center for Missing Kids encourages parents to add a DNA sample in the form of a baby tooth or hairs with roots intact to its child identification kits.
The Texas Education Agency said the state’s schools first distributed the kits to families with children in elementary and/or middle school during the 2021-2022 school year, and to the current school year’s incoming kindergarteners. The kits were sent to local school districts and schools, who then gave the kits to parents upon request.
“The kits are designed to assist law enforcement in locating and returning a missing or trafficked child and are not distributed as a means of victim identification following a mass casualty incident,” the Texas Education Agency said. “While this is the first time school systems are involved in the distribution of kits, Texas has facilitated a statewide child ID program since 2006 through direct distribution to parents.”
According to the National Child Identification Program’s history page, Texas has distributed the initiative’s kits at least three separate times before — in 1999, 2000 and 2006-2007.
Use of these kits is voluntary and requires parental consent, the Texas Education Agency added. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s website and the law’s text say parents keep and store their kits themselves, only handing the kit over to law enforcement if their child goes missing.