One size does not fit all when it comes to finding the right type of school security. What might be necessary in Houston or Dallas might not be the right answer in Glen Rose.
That was the general opinion of veteran Glen Rose ISD Superintendent Wayne Rotan, when asked to weigh in on the national conversation about what methods are best to ensure the safety of school children, teachers and other staff members.
“I think the situation in any school district is unique,” said Rotan, who is in his 13th year as superintendent.
Rotan noted that in addition to the improvements that have been made in the last few years, other changes are on the way with the goal of making the school campuses even more secure.
“When I got here, there were no security cameras, and the majority of the doors were unlocked most of the day,” Rotan said. “We narrowed that down to one access point on each campus.”
Rotan pointed out the county’s relatively new security system called COPsync, which is designed to alert law enforcement officers if there is an emergency situation at any of the schools, and is capable of pinpointing the spot where the trouble is occurring. According to an online Dallas Morning News article, COPsync has more than 500 law enforcement agencies and school districts as customers in 16 states.
Each GRISD school campus has a school resource officer on duty.
Also, Rotan praised the response time of law enforcement agencies in Glen Rose. That includes Police Chief Buck Martin, as well as the Somervell County Sheriff’s Office.
“Our police response time is well under three minutes,” Rotan said. “As a district, I have confidence we’ve delayed entry to our school buildings through additional security.”
Rotan said the GRISD is looking at adding a feature in which all visitors will be required to show a driver’s license in order to run a background check before entry.
Tommy Corcoran, assistant superintendent of operations for the GRISD, said, “Our goal is for the public, the first person they see is a police officer.”
“We’re also looking at a classroom (internal) barricade system,” Rotan said.
“The GRISD certainly takes school security seriously, and changes have been made and will continue to be made to additional school security,” GRISD School Board President Kelley Snodgrass said. “I feel very good about the changes. It’s not something you add once, and then you’re done with.
“We as a community should feel very good about where Glen Rose ISD is. The administration continues to assess the security, and evolve security measures as time goes on.”
The Texas Legislature in 2013 passed two methods that allow school district employees to carry handguns on campus, according to information found online at www.schoolsafetycertification.com. “The School Marshal Plan was intended to give educators/employees armed law enforcement capabilities and responsibilities,” the website states, adding, “The School Safety Training, otherwise known as the Guardian Plan, was intended to solely provide hand-picked armed educators/employees the ability to defend themselves and students in the event of an active shooter or active killer.”
Rotan does not favor the option of having teachers and other staff members carrying concealed handguns while on duty — even if they are vetted and would do so only on a voluntary basis.
“Our board has not specifically voted on it,” Rotan said. “Each community is unique. Most (teachers) are not trained to carry, and don’t want that responsibility. We want our teachers to be 100 percent focused on improving performance.”
There is also a possibility that first responders entering a school building during an intense active shooter crisis could mistake a teacher carrying a firearm as a potential threat. Corcoran noted that each teacher, in such a crisis, will already have a full plate from just managing and protecting their own classroom full of approximately 30 students.
Some schools are considering having firearms in a locked box, accessible only to law enforcement or a limited number of staff members certified to carry.
“I’m certainly not opposed to that,” Rotan said. “I do think that’s one option.”
Somervell County Sheriff Alan West declined to offer his thoughts on local school security, other than to note that each GRISD school campus has its own resource officer, and adding, “We’ve got it covered.”
NOT ANDY AND BARNEY ANYMORE
The school district in rural Harrold, Texas — midway between Wichita Falls and Vernon near the Red River — was the first in the nation to enact a policy to allow trained staff members to carry firearms in the school.
Harrold Superintendent David Thweatt said by phone on Tuesday that he feels that the program he initiated has been a total success.
Harrold ISD, however, currently has only 115 students — compared to the 1,800 enrolled in the GRISD. An average graduation class at Harrold High School typically has fewer than 10 students.
“It’s not Andy and Barney anymore,” Thweatt told the Glen Rose Reporter, noting that the Harrold ISD policty went into place before the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012. “I passed the policy in October of 2007. I call mine the Guardian Plan.”
Thweatt said that before Sandy Hook, critics used to say that Harrold’s policy was “paranoid and overreactive.” After the Sandy Hook incident, he began to hear people say that they were “prepared and prophetic.”
Thweatt said that the entryways at the Harrold ISD are all electronically locked, with limited access as well, and there are approximately 65 cameras on campus. The staff members at the Harrold ISD who choose to carry concealed handguns while on duty are reimbursed for the price of one firearm, Thweatt said. Their firearm safety training is paid for, and they also receive a stipend in addition to their regular salary. Their names are kept anonymous, he said.