by Ed, former CIA
The Philosophy Of One Century Is The Common Sense Of The Next Century.”         
                                                                       – Henry Ward Beecher

With the new school semester starting and many of us with kids returning to the classroom, a large number of us are pondering what exactly has been done since last May 2018 to prepare for the terrible possibility of another school shooting event.  What is new in the school safety program and how has security been enhanced?

In July 2018, members of several Texas Legislature Communities on education, homeland security and terrorism met to discuss and talk with several subject matter experts from the education, law enforcement, medical and physical security vocations regarding safety and security in Texas schools.  To be precise they were to:  “Study school security options and resources, including, but not limited to, the school marshal program, school police officers, armed school personnel, the Texas School Safety Center, and other training programs to determine what improvements can be made to provide school districts and charter schools with more robust security options.”

The quoted statement was from Governors Abbott’s May 30, 2018, report on “School Safety and Security” after the Shootings in Santa Fe school shootings in a Houston suburb last May.  A number of proposals were put forth regarding school districts that do not have access to a school ISD police department (Dallas ISD) or a school-based resource officer from the local police department (Coppell).  A sincere push was made by a number of ISD’s to increase the existing Texas School Marshal program (a state-mandated 80-hour program for campus employees), that would have one Marshal per 100 students (or 4 to 5 classrooms).  Others chose the “Guardian” option, whereby the ISD Commissioner could appoint certified LTC volunteers who would be on site and armed ready to respond.

One interesting option presented was to induce a culture change within the student population who utilize social media as their primary source of communication.  In the wake of the school shootings, last February and May 2018, social media posts ran rampant regarding perceived safety, security and potential threats at schools across the country.  Most of those threats were rumors, yet each and every perceived threat that was posted were immediately investigated (which pulled already strained police resources to the limit).

The problem with posting and re-posting perceived threats on social media is that rumors induce unnecessary fear. Rather than posting or worse, re-posting a rumor, parents, school officials and local police need to urge students should they see, hear or sense something suspicious, they need to report it directly to a school administrator or police officer for an immediate response.

The safety and security of every of student and school employee is every ISD’s number one priority. That’s why each and every report of a threat is taken with the utmost urgency.  With that train of thought, some school staff have been trained in the HERO (Hide! Escape! Run! Overcome!) The “Overcome” aspect represents how to best select a weapon from presumed benign objects etc.  There is an ongoing discussion among connected ISD’s to train students (elementary through high school) by their teachers on how to respond to an intruder on campus. The curriculum under development presents the topic in a non-threatening manner with a focus on safe-thinking skills.

Parents need to monitor their children’s social media activity and remind them that if they see something alerting being posted to their or a peer’s social media site, report it.  We also need to remind them that everything posted to a social media post is not gone forever if you delete it or remove it from a site.

One of the most interesting solutions is a new mobile app launched right after the Santa Fe shooting that allows citizens to report on suspicious activity happening in their own communities and schools.

The iWatchTexas app, helps Texas citizens report potential crimes, terrorism or threats to school safety, according to the Governor’s office, who directed the Department of Public Safety to develop the app.

Response by police to an app report can take less than five minutes, and reports are reviewed by law enforcement analysts after they’re submitted.  DPS Officials suggest citizens report suspicious activity like strangers asking questions about building security features and procedures, unusual chemical smells or vehicles left in no-parking zones at important buildings.

Most importantly, DPS officials noted that all reports are confidential, but made very clear the app is not meant to report emergencies – that remains dialing 911.

The Governor’s Office issued a press release in June 2018 saying “Our law enforcement officers often rely on vigilant Texans to help keep communities safe, and this new tool will give everyone the ability to quickly and easily communicate with authorities and help prevent future tragedies.,”   The app can now be downloaded from the App Store for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users.

The May 2018 plan called for more school mental health screenings and to consider “red-flag laws,” which allows a judge to temporarily seize a person’s firearms if they’re considered an imminent threat (this is still under heated debate).

Are we were we need to be as a nation on the school safety issue, hardly.  That said, we have resolved some aspects of the problem, until a solution is found that we as a country together can agree upon.

We at Trident Response Group are deeply engaged with this issue as some many of us have kids in school.  We have developed our own acronym, OPTS or Out, Protect, Treat and Shelter, but with added emphasis on just one single action.  We welcome a visit from anyone interested in the personal security of themselves or their family as we enter another school year.

“Coming Together Is A Beginning; Keeping Together Is Progress; Working Together Is Success.”

                                                                                      – Henry Ford