Even before the last school year was over local school officials and law enforcement officers were thinking about how to better protect students and administration. With another school year starting, teachers, administrators and other faculty members have been preparing for what seems to be a norm these days.
Now, along with finalizing lesson plans, decorating classrooms and getting school supplies together teachers must prepare for the worst case scenario such as active shooters.
“We hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” said Alice Superintendent Dr. Carl Scarbrough. “Practice drills with administrators and students….We take every threat serious and investigate."
Last school year, local schools were plagued with threats. Thankfully, nothing came of those threats. But active shooters aren’t just a school related problem.
According to Sgt. Nathan Brandley with the Texas Department of Public Safety, schools are ranked second in shootings in the United States.
“You hear a lot about school shootings, but still more occur at (businesses),” he stated. “Followed by education, outdoors and other places like homes.”
Safety is key no matter where people are. Knowing what to expect and how to handle the situation can change the outcome of any situation.
Law enforcement departments are familiarizing themselves with campuses as part of their training and meet with school officials regularly.
Alice ISD administrators have created the Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) Task Force made up of city officials, law enforcement and school officials. They have reviewed the EOP at each Alice school campus.
Last school year, Alice ISD hired off-duty police officers to help with the threats and fights that were occurring.
“Fights went down,” Willie Ruiz with Alice ISD said. “Overall (issues) have been about discipline. Uniformed officers have made contact and kids are respecting them. They have made positive relationships with each other.”
Training to be proactive is essential to everyone's safety. Taking safety measures throughout the school district even with custodians, maintenance personnel and transportation officials are being conducted.
“As I am proactive in academics, athletics. Safety is just if not more important,” Dr. Scarbrough said. “We are increasing security staff at campuses, and have them walking through or driving around schools.”
Every school across the U.S. is looking for ways to improve their safety procedures. San Diego High School recently held a safety summit where law enforcement, other first responders and administrators gathered to learn about active shooters and how to combat them.
The Raptor System is being implemented in schools to prevent unwanted people near students.
Alice ISD is currently looking into the Raptor System to implement district wide and make sure all visitors have to stop at the office before heading to any classroom.
The Raptor System, which is used at Ben Bolt and San Diego ISDs, works by scanning a person’s valid state-issued identification card. It checks to ensure that registered sex offenders are not entering any campus. Once approved the system will print a badge that identifies the visitor along with the date and the visitor's purpose.
Alice ISD has metal detectors that are used at random throughout the year. Metal detectors will be used during a potential threat or if a student who walks off campus and attempts to return.
In some districts, like Agua Dulce ISD, there are even teachers who carry concealed handguns. Last school year, some administrators, for the first time, were allowed to carry concealed handguns after proper training.
Agua Dulce Superintendent Wayne Kelly said that his district did not notice a change in operational procedures with the policy, but he did say his district is ready.
"Please note that having armed personnel on campus can deter attacks, but it cannot prevent the loss of life…,” Kelly said. "For deadly force to be used some aggression will have already occurred. "What we do to help our students by being relational and caring about them and their mental and physical well -being is just as important as being prepared to defend ourselves in case of attack.”
Police officials have seen that a situation start at off-campus and escalates to a school setting. Sometimes it adults situations and sometimes the situation arises from students bullying each other.
The key is to be prepared for the upcoming school year and having an emergency plan.
“The safety of kids and adults is important,” Dr. Scarbrough said. “We have a lot to enhance, but we are committed to student learning, staff training and safety.”