Texas schools continue to adopt stricter safety measures they hope will better harden campuses and prevent future active shooter situations in light of the recent deadly, mass shootings in Parkland, Florida, and closer to home at Santa Fe High.
Late Monday, two school districts announced protocols that represent a mix of existing security methods and innovative newer technologies designed to protect the lives of students and staff.
In San Antonio, the North East Independent School District board of trustees rolled out new rules they will implement in the 2018-19 academic year. Trustees unveiled measures that include the use of clear backpacks, increased police patrols, a “buzz in” system for visitors, hand-held metal detectors, random searches, and administrator active shooter training.
“Unfortunately, we live in a time when the problem of school violence doesn’t seem to be going away,” wrote North East ISD officials in a Facebook posted message.
Come fall, middle and high school students only may bring clear backpacks on campus. However, the district will allow students to bring traditional band and athletic bags, purses, and lunch sacks. Elementary school students are exempt from this policy.
“We’ll have more eyes to see what’s in the backpacks,” said North East ISD Police Chief Wall McCampbell. He told WOAI: “By having a clear one, it’s going to reduce the probability of someone having a weapon and bringing it to school.”
Given the “added expense,” school officials say they will furnish clear backpacks to those in need.
McCampbell acknowledged that not everyone will be happy about the bookbag mandate. “You’ve got to do what you think is the safest for everybody no matter what they think about clear backpacks.”
North East ISD says it will hire additional police officers to increase patrols at their elementary schools. “As you know, we have armed police officers permanently assigned at each of our middle and high schools,” read the social media post.
Next year, all facility exterior doors will be locked on campus buildings during school hours. The district said it will adopt a “buzz in” system for school visitors. “It’s important that our staff is trained and prepared for a variety of situations,” they say on Facebook. “Campuses have access to hand held metal detectors to use at their discretion, and guidelines for random searches are currently being established.
North East ISD indicated that all administrators will receive active shooter training this summer and school counselors will get annual mental health training “to better support our students’ needs.”
In North Texas, the Carroll ISD school board pushed pause on adopting a random drug testing policy for all high school students who participate in extracurricular activities including sports. At their monthly meeting, trustees said they needed more information on outstanding questions before they can move forward.
Implementing this policy would affect 2,300 of the roughly 8,000 students in this suburban Fort Worth school district. The idea of random drug testing began a several years ago and has been, largely, parent-driven, according to KDFW. Recently, Carroll ISD started surveying staff, parents, and students about initiating drug-testing. So far, they received more than 2,700 responses, most of them favorable.
Neighboring Grapevine-Colleyville ISD codified its mandatory drug-testing program into the Student Rights and Responsibilities, Interrogations and Searches portion of the school board’s policy. They test for alcohol, marijuana, performance-enhancing drugs, opioids, PCP, and other substances. Activities requiring drug-testing include band, a host of sports, University Interscholastic League (UIL) contests, cheerleading, speech/debate/drama, and journalism.
Last week, Southlake Mayor Laura Hill announced the city’s partnership with its Crime Control Prevention District will fund more than $500,000 to explore new and innovative safety and security measures in Carroll ISD next year. “Those initiatives will come from law enforcement’s finest minds at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as Carroll ISD,” said Hill.
“We want our students to feel safe, secure, and protected” added the mayor. She advised parents, “Once we put together our plan for the additional steps we will take, we will share those with you.”
The Crime Control and Prevention District is a board of seven Southlake residents appointed by the city council. They work to ensure that funds raised by the city’s one-eighth cent Crime Control sales tax get spent on programs and capital purchases that reduce crime, increase public safety, and maintain a high quality of life, according to the City of Southlake’s website.
Hall remarked that, since 2013, the city of Southlake invested more than $1 million a year for campus police at every Carroll ISD school.
Im May, the Southlake school district began looking into another line of defense for their elementary schools — bulletproof safe-rooms outfitted with double-steeled walls, the same materials used in military tanks. These elevator-sized pods can quickly shelter nearly three dozen youngsters and a teacher. They can also withstand bullets from handguns, assault weapons, and shotguns. Designed by Utah-based Shelter-in-Place, the classroom shelters come equipped with panoramic view cameras, an air circulation system, and backup power, according to NBC DFW. They cost approximately $20,000 each.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.