West Texas schools heighten security

In recent years, West Texas schools have beefed up security as insecurity becomes a matter of great concern.

"Recent events have certainly heightened our awareness of potential security issues," said Snyder schools Superintendent Randy Brown. "The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority."

During staff and school board meetings, security is a subject that is frequently discussed. New systems and policies often result from brainstorming sessions.

"School safety is a constant topic among administrative staff," said Greg Brown, executive director for administrative services at Plainview schools. "The safety of our students is always our first concern."

As Josie Musico of AJ Media reports, recently Levelland and a handful of other area school districts have begun to allow certain faculty to carry concealed weapons. Meanwhile, new security cameras have been installed in other schools such as Littlefield and Ropes.

"It helps for our response time — if someone was in the school, we would know," said Ron Rincones, Ropes' recently-hired full-time school resource officer. "Our job is to stop the threat, so that no other teachers or students can be in harm's way."

While patrolling the campus, Rincones constantly monitors security footage from his smartphone.

A series of improvements from Ropes' recent $5 million bond election led to the extra cameras. The school board and administrators believe that, because of the school's age, doing more to increase its safety would cost too much.

"We prefer to be proactive, versus reactive," said Superintendent Gary Lehnen. "We have to prepare for these events. It's not that we have problems here — we want to prevent problems."

Maintenance crews are replacing doors and glass panels on campus, among other upgrades, with voter approval. Other schools are working to secure entrances.

"We train our staff to monitor people they see in the halls," Plainview's Brown said. "We try to watch our doors very carefully, and anyone we don't know, we try to find out who they are and what their business is in a school building."

Points of entrance have been limited in many schools."All the doors on our campuses are locked, except the front door on each campus," said Littlefield Superintendent Jerry Blakely.

Before visitors are admitted, many schools require them to check in at a main office where they are requested to provide photo identification.

"If they're not someone we're familiar with, they have to show ID and identify their purpose for being at the school," said Anton Superintendent Jim Knight.

School administrators said that the feedback from the visitors has been largely positive despite fears that heightened security could create somewhat of a hassle. The main responsibility for many is the safety of the children.

"We know when parents turn their children over to us, they have given us control of their most valuable asset," Littlefield's Blakely said. "We take that very seriously."

01 28, 2014
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