By Hannah Costley
Bullet-proof glass, lockdown technology and stepped up intervention to help students at risk of hurting themselves or others are part of the Frisco school district’s newest efforts to keep schools safe.
After the deadly shooting at a high school in Santa Fe last year, Texas lawmakers made school safety a priority this past session by funneling additional money and requiring districts to enhance security efforts.
Frisco’s stepped up initiatives include focusing on mental health awareness for students and making campuses even more secure with enhanced features.
“When you look at the research, the best thing we can do to prevent school violence is to make sure every single kid has a place where they feel like they belong and they’re safe,” said Dr. Stephanie Cook, managing director of guidance and counseling services for Frisco schools.
And key to that is focusing on students’ mental health as their emotional well being has a direct connection to school violence, Dr. Cook said.
Enhanced building security for the district includes installing bullet-resistant glass to interior classrooms and campus lockdown technology, which can electronically lock doors and notify authorities in case of an emergency. In 2018, voters approved a bond package that included $4.3 million for such campus safety features.
The bond also includes $8.3 million for surveillance updates, which will help replace about 2,400 existing security cameras with updated models.
Texas’ new school safety bill requires districts to have an emergency plan. Frisco officials said in addition to that, the district is one of the few that has a position solely dedicated to emergency management. Jon Bodie, the emergency manager, works across the district to support training on safety, such as what to do in active-shooter situations.
“I definitely feel like we are ahead of the curve just from the standpoint of having a position fully focused on emergency preparedness,” Bodie said.
Schools have increasingly stepped up security since deadly school shootings like those at Columbine High School in 1999 and Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
For over 10 years, Frisco has collaborated with local police, fire and other emergency officials on the Situational Awareness for Emergency Response, or S.A.F.E.R., program that allows FISD and authorities to conduct safety drills as well as gives them live feed access to cameras inside and outside of the schools. The unique program helps first responders and school administrators work together as they plan and practice responses to emergencies in real time, Bodie said
The STOPit app was created two years ago as a tool for students and parents to report concerns anonymously. The app allows users to upload pictures, video, audio and, most recently, screenshots. The app has been downloaded about 19,800 times and is constantly monitored, including on weekends and holidays.
“It’s been a very valuable program to us,” Bodie said. “The monitoring around the clock makes a big difference in how we’re able to respond.”
Frisco also offers resources for teachers, including webinar-based and scenario-based training that help prepare them for emergency situations.
Curious why over 5,000 organizations worldwide are using STOPit’s anonymous reporting software and 24/7/365 monitoring services?