Security cameras, extra officers on duty and upgraded protocols are among the many steps towards a safer school year that administrators have been working on all summer and are now ready to put into practice as students return to school Wednesday at Lubbock ISD and Lubbock-Cooper ISD and Aug. 19 at Frenship ISD.
The Lubbock Independent School District has been upgrading many of its security and safety protocols over the last few months, with a lot of work being put into their visitor system and ways to report information about a dangerous situation anonymously through their STOPit app. Their visitor management system, Lobby Guard, has been upgraded with new kiosks on the campuses, and visitors will need an official form of identification to be allowed into the building.
“We will be working with our parents who don’t have state-issued IDs to get them key tags so they’re able to check in to Lobby Guard as well,” said Stacy Carter, director of school safety and security for Lubbock ISD. “We also have STOPit now, so anyone across the community can report concerns through the web or app.”
There have also been upgrades to the facilities that will continue with construction through the year. All campuses will be able to alert the police department by the push of a button and get new public address systems, which will help send alerts through the campus and district if an incident is occurring. There are different options for the alerts, such as bus accident, and the alert will send updated rosters to teachers electronically to account for everyone in the building.
Another precaution being taken this year is being sure staff members and administrators have been trained for trauma-informed care and mental health first-aid, as well as having a threat assessment team on every campus and a district-level assessment team. The school district has also started piloting social and emotional lessons into the curriculum in 11 schools this year, including suicide and bullying prevention.
“If a student or staff member makes a threat to hurt themselves or others, we have an assessment we can do to determine the next steps that need to be taken to help that individual,” said Carter. “The classes are a lot of teaching kids how to handle social situations and their emotions, things like how to have a conversation and take turns.”
Along with the usual lockdown drills and keeping open communication with the community, Carter said their goal is to meet every need for students and faculty on campus and to act before a tragedy can occur.
“Our goal is to meet physical, social, emotional and psychological safety of both students and staff,” said Carter. “Our focus it to be proactive and preventative and that’s where the community is going to help us quite a bit. Our motto going into this year is ‘See something, say something, do something, stop it,’ because we can’t stand by and watch things anymore.”
Since the Lubbock-Cooper ISD board approved having a certified peace officer at a every campus a few years ago, the security measure has added ten full-time officers and three additional officers for extra events or as needed.
“We try to cover as much as we can, when we can,” said Rick Saldana, chief of police for LCISD. “Our door system has controlled access and our officers are checking them two to three times during their shift and perimeter checks.”
There are video systems throughout the district and on each campus that are able to scan inside and outside, and all doors will remain locked during school hours. Each main door leads into a security vestibule, not directly into hallways, and front office administrators will run visitors through a quick check in the Raptor monitoring system. The protocols are a way for anyone on campus to take responsibility for suspicious activity.
“All our employees take part in our security,” said Saldana. “The maintenance crew, teachers, administrators – we all work together, we try to stay vigilant and on top of things. Everyone does their part and at the end of the day, it’s about keeping kids safe and providing a safe environment where kids can come to school and feel safe learning and teachers can feel safe teaching.”
Officers in the district are taking a refresher course on mental health training as well after doing so two years ago. Saldana said the course enhances the officers ability to pick out something that seems unusual, and that all the employees have a good intuition about saying when something doesn’t seem right.
The important thing, said Saldana, was to always be ready to change security tactics depending on how society changes. By staying ahead, Saldana said they can be successful at making parents comfortable.
“As the bad guys change their tactics, we have to change ours too, so we’re constantly trying to stay not just one but two or three steps ahead and that’s where we plan to stay,” said Saldana. “We want our kids to come to school and feel comfortable. We don’t want them thinking, ‘Is this going to be the day?’ Yeah it stays in the back of your mind, but we’re here to educate kids, love them, and provide a good learning environment.”
A big key in tackling safety for Frenship ISD was working on any blind spots that security might miss. Over the summer, the camera system has been upgraded to a more extensive measure that allows officers and school administrators to access any camera on any campus from their desk or home if a situation needs to be monitored immediately.
“It’s a force multiplier,” said Roy Bassett, chief of police for Frenship ISD. “One officer can truly monitor numerous hallways of whatever school they’re assigned to from their desk. They can monitor that and look for problems themselves and hopefully cut off things before they get serious.”
Frenship adopted the standard response protocol which Bassett says can handle several situations such as a lockdown or a lockout, which will lock students in the school to avoid a problem outside. This protocol revealed that students at the high school who have classes in the outer buildings on campus would not be secure, so security changed that by adding a new fence outdoors.
“If kids were trying to change classes during a lockout, they would have to leave the security of the building in order to get to a new secure position,” Bassett said. “So now, all high school students are able to move from one building to another, they will be outside in a secure area.”
Officers for Frenship ISD are also about to attend a mental health peace officer certification course so they can all be certified by the time school starts. Bassett said safety is everyone’s job on campus.
“We’re out there to be a physical presence and reminder, but it starts at home and with the students,” said Bassett. “See something, say something is not just a clever saying, it’s truly the way we need to be in this day and age.”