According to a poll conducted by the National Public Radio, 63 percent of parents are very concerned about violence and safety measures in public schools nationwide. With the recent tragedy at Santa Fe High School on May 18 of this year, Friendswood ISD has decided to take further measures to better protect its students.
“We have taken action immediately prior to things happening. The incident that happened 10 miles away in Santa Fe gave us a new perspective,” Erich Kreiter, Executive Director of FISD Safety and Operations, said. “The worst thing is not being prepared for an emergency.”
On June 11, the School Safety Advisory Committee (SSAC) was created in order to review the current FISD campus safety layers, budget and safety research/literature; consider the implementation of additional safety measures; evaluate the current student codes and resources available to them; and make recommendations in each area to the Board of Trustees Administration. The committee is comprised of 52 people from various groups including: eight central office administrators, five people from the District Safety Committee, seven individuals from the Superintendent’s Advisory, six campus principals, two assistant principals, eight teachers, one school counselor, one pastor, one youth pastor, two law enforcement officers, seven parents and four students.
“Diversity in membership provides varying viewpoints to consider as a group. Each role signified a group that has a vested interest in the safety and security of FISD. We wanted to have the same amount of community input as those who actually work in the school system,” Thad Roher, FISD Superintendent, said.
Jason Byers, a parent of three FISD students and member of the parent group of the SSAC, explained how, though the committee was made up of people with different backgrounds and interests, everyone came together for the sake of the students.
“Safety and security are very important aspects and I wanted to be involved,” Byers said. “The committee came together as a cohesive unit and came to a solid agreement that we brought before the Board.”
During its four meetings over the summer, the SSAC reached a consensus on varying topics regarding school safety. The following paragraphs are listed in order of priority based on the committee’s decisions:
- Additional Law Enforcement
- Recommendation: The SSAC believes the proposed increase in law enforcement is adequate based on current budget and availability.
- Physical Security / Controlled Access of Campuses
- Recommendation: The SSAC recommends the implementation of the following security enhancements to control access to the campuses:
- FISD should limit the number of entrances at the secondary level, during and outside of the school day.
- FISD should renovate existing security vestibules, with a main focus on the elementary/intermediate level.
- Door hardware should be removed from doors which are not used as physical entrances.
- FISD should evaluate the current electronic door locking reader locations and access.
- Surveillance camera coverage should be expanded.
- Existing electronic locking systems should be hardwired at all campuses.
- The electronic door-locking software system should be updated to send out alerts if the doors are open.
- Signage should be updated.
- FISD should upgrade fencing and perimeter security.
- FISD should train students and staff on physical security updates on campus and access to the grounds.
- Social / Emotional Support (SEL)
- Recommendation: The SSAC feels this is a proactive layer that is critical to implement in an effort to prevent safety issues at the campus level. The committee recommends the following:
- FISD should implement actions to support and facilitate steps to provide school counselors with more time to spend with students for counseling initiatives. This will include providing crisis training and crisis resources for counselors.
- FISD should hire additional counselors with a primary focus on SEL.
- Actions should be taken to create more uniform and comprehensive programming for all students at Tier I, especially at the secondary level.
- FISD should take steps to identify students who are not participants in activities and explore avenues to get them involved in extracurricular activities, clubs, etc.
- FISD should utilize outside resources and professionals to provide support for Tier II and Tier III students.
- FISD should provide grade level specific SEL professional development support for counselors.
- FISD should engage and educate parents and the community in partnerships to provide SEL support to families (mental health, faith-based activities, mentoring programs, after school clubs, in-home training, etc.).
- FISD should create a threat assessment team on each campus to identify and create action plans for students who are a possible threat to themselves and others based on a threat assessment matrix.
- FISD should provide on-going SEL training for all faculty and staff.
- FISD should ensure continuity of care with the transfer of students from campus to campus.
- School Security Monitors
- Recommendation: The SSAC recommends hiring school safety monitors for the purpose of monitoring exterior and interior doors, student entry, high traffic points, parking areas, parent check-in stations, etc. in effort to maintain the integrity of the physical safety of the campus. Monitors should be identifiable to students and staff via uniform or standardized dress and a photo ID badge.
- School Marshal Program
- Recommendation: After review of all the options for layers to provide a deterrent, as well as a response with force to an armed intruder the SSAC is generally recommending the District further research the implementation of a school marshal program as allowed by TEC 37.0811.
- Comprehensive Safety and Security Training
- Recommendation: The SSAC recommends ongoing, uniform safety and security training prior to the start of school for all staff and substitutes. Training for students should begin once school is in session. Training should be focused on current research and formulated in conjunction with action plans for response to a hostile actor by the FPD. The SSAC also recommends a refresher training after the winter break.
- Metal Detectors
- Recommendation: The SSAC does not recommend the implementation of fixed metal detectors at the entrances of the campuses; however, the SSAC does recommend the District taking time this coming school year to consider the logistics and legalities of implementing a random search plan for secondary schools.
- District Communication
- Recommendation: The SSAC recommends the implementation of uniform terminology for communication for different levels of alert at the campuses (hold, lockdown, shelter in place, evacuate, protect mode) as presented to the committee.
- Student Code of Conduct
- Recommendation: After reviewing the current Code of Conduct, the SSAC approved proposed adjustments to the Code of Conduct that include the following:
- Disciplinary action for students who fail to comply with all safety measures (i.e. propping doors, opening designated non-entry doors for entry or failing to adhere to safety regulations).
- Inclusion of the “See Something, Say Something” reporting provisions.
- Dress Code
- Recommendation: The SSAC is not recommending any changes to the dress code or implementation of standardized dress for safety purposes.
- Identification (ID) Badges
- Recommendation: The SSAC recommends all FISD staff should be issued a standardized photo identification badge to be worn visibly at all times. District substitutes should also be issued a standardized ID that makes them easily identifiable to students, staff and parents. The SSAC recommends student IDs should not be required for students in grades K - 8. The Committee recommends the continuation and enforcement of the current policy at FHS from the Mustang Manual.
- Clear / Mesh Backpacks
- Recommendation: The SSAC is not recommending the use of clear/mesh backpacks at this time.
- Visitors to Campus
- Recommendation: The SSAC recommends parents who come for lunch be separated from other students, and the exploration of alpha group visitor rotation.
These recommendations were presented to the Board on July 16. Additionally, FISD offered an open-invitation for the public to attend Mustang Voices on July 26 where the recommendations were explained and the floor was open for questions. Katie Pendle, mother of an incoming sixth grade student, attended the meeting.
“I think it’s nice they offer this to the community,” Pendle said. “They’re coming up with the safety measures, they’re going to put them in place and see if they work. As long as they continue to do stuff like this, then I feel confident they’re doing the right thing.”
Dene Dexter, also a mother to an incoming sixth grader, agreed.
“We can hear things first hand,” Dexter said. “They’re trying. They’re making an effort. I think it’s a good start.”
On July 30, Roher presented the School Safety Action Plan recommendations to the Board of Trustees where the Board discussed and deliberated each recommendation. The SSAC plans to continue meeting as needed as directed by Administration or the Board of Trustees.
To read further into the implementation/rationale behind each recommendation, you can visit http://myfisd.com/blog/fisd-school-safety-advisory-committee-recommendations/.