By Dr. Brian T. Woods.
Similar to many of you, I watched with horror the events of last Friday in Newtown, CT. As an educator and a parent the event was particularly painful. We all grieve for those involved in this tragedy. In Northside, many have asked about our security procedures and some have expressed interest in more security measures being installed. I wanted to update you on the measures we have in place and where we plan to go in the future with respect to school safety.
There is always a balance to be drawn between increased security and creating a welcoming atmosphere for students, parents and the community. We debate that balance on a regular basis and certainly have in the wake of the Newtown incident. As you can imagine, in the aftermath of a school-based tragedy there are many calls to enhance safety measures.
In Northside, all secondary campuses are staffed with police officers who work for the Northside Police Department. In addition to campus officers, there is a patrol division that is primarily responsible for coverage at elementary schools. The police department also mans 210-397-SAFE, the NISD SAFELINE, a 24/7 anonymous, phone and text line that will take and disseminate information about unsafe conditions.
In 2004 and 2007, NISD patrons approved bond issues that, in part, allowed for the installation of security cameras and access control systems at secondary campuses. A similar proposal for elementary campuses was approved in 2010 and we expect to approve a contract in early 2013. This will enable campus and central office administrators as well as NISD police to better control access to our elementary schools. We hope to begin an aggressive installation schedule early in 2013.
In addition, every NISD elementary campus is equipped with the Raptor identification system. This system provides staff the ability to scan a driver’s license or other form of ID and runs that person’s information through various sex offender data bases. This is one more way that we are attempting to control the people who enter our buildings.
In spite of all of this technology, the most powerful weapon in the effort to improve school safety is a sense of community within our schools and the neighborhoods they serve. As I said in my weekly message to staff on Monday, our willingness to watch out for each other and to report unsafe conditions or behavior is our best defense. We constantly send this message to our students and count on our parents and community to help in this way as well. School safety is a job for the entire community.
Please know that the NISD Board of Trustees and our staff have student safety as our top priority. We understand that a student who does not feel safe cannot learn. Also know that we have and will continue to review our security procedures and the use of technology that can assist us in improving school safety.