Local schools have systems in place to prevent tragedies like the mass shooting in Florida Wednesday.
In Killeen Independent School District, KISD Police Department has a special team assigned to move quickly in a threat situation, such as in the case of an active shooter, to eliminate the threat. District police also coordinates and works with local law enforcement in such instances.
“The safety of every student, teacher and staff member at every school every day is our number one priority,” said KISD chief communications officer Terry Abbott. “We have full emergency action plans for every school.”
Abbott said Superintendent John Craft met with the principals and other administrators from every school Friday and discussed emergency processes and procedures for continuing to ensure student safety.
School and district officials have emergency operation plans that they regularly review, and drills are conducted with students for a variety of safety situations, Abbott said, including active shooter and lockdown drills.
Metal detectors are installed on an “as-needed bases” in some schools, and crisis kits are available in the classrooms. Schools also have electronic access systems and other methods of securing entry doors to prevent intruders.
Copperas Cove ISD also ranks safety of students and staff above all else.
CCISD Deputy Superintendent of Operations and Support Rick Kirkpatrick said the district has emergency operations plans in place, and security drills are routinely conducted at every district facility.
“While we cannot predict the future, we do take every precaution possible to protect our students and staff in order to ensure a safe learning and working environment at school, on school buses and at after-school events,” Kirkpatrick said.
In Temple Independent School District, officials seek input from the Temple Police Department, the Region 12 Education Service Center and the Texas School Safety Center.
“Temple ISD follows the safety procedures put in place by our school resource officers through the Temple Police Department,” district spokesman Matthew LeBlanc said. “Procedures are rehearsed several times each semester, and are updated continually.”
He said that doors on campus are locked and all visitors enter each campus through one door.
Similar security measures are in place on Belton Independent School District campuses.
“The presence of local law enforcement officers, security guards, surveillance cameras, safety vestibules, campus visitor policies and other threat assessment procedures are in place to deter and respond in the case of an active shooter,” Belton ISD spokeswoman Elizabeth Cox said. “Lockdown drills occur at all campuses at least twice during a school year. Training is provided to all staff and reviewed frequently.”
Belton ISD works with both the Belton and Temple police departments to keep security procedures updated, as well as the Bell County Sheriff’s Department and the Texas School Safety Center. School officials in both districts communicate with school resource officers daily.
LeBlanc said that parents have sometimes asked to be notified in advance of drills so that they are aware that there is not a real emergency happening, but the district cannot give this kind of advance notice without ruining the drill itself.
“To ensure students and staff are prepared for a real event, the hard lockdown drills must be simulated as real as possible,” LeBlanc said. “Another concern that is only related to Temple High School is that students have to leave the building to go to the L-wing or CTE (career and technical education) center. The completion of the new CTE center that is attached to the main building ... will remove that.”
Following the shooting in Parkland, Fla., Wednesday, there were a number of calls for increased gun control, while gun rights advocates suggested that schools would be safer if teachers were allowed to carry weapons. Matt Betros, who owns Aaron’s Gun Shop in Cameron, agrees with this second argument.
“It’s quite obvious that guns not being in the school allowed this to happen,” Betros said. “I think it’s quite a good idea for lots of people to have guns, (people) that are trained.”
Chris Rosenberg, the chair of the Bell County Democrats, suggested that it would be a better approach to ban the sale of some types of guns.
“When you look at the majority of these mass shootings, and five of the 10 deadliest have happened in the past three years, they all have something in common, and that’s that AR-15,” Rosenberg said. “We have got to figure out very quickly that hundreds of people can be affected by these weapons, as they were in Las Vegas, and we need to ban these weapons.”
The Colt AR-15 is a lightweight semi-automatic rifle. Rosenberg suggested that banning “bump stocks,” an attachment that allows a semi-automatic weapon to fire faster, would reduce deaths in these types of instances.
“There are a number of things that we can do,” Rosenberg said. “We can make sure that folks who are mentally ill cannot access these weapons.”
“The truth of the matter is, if you would be educated and understand that guns will always be there, violence will always be there, and the criminal will never listen to a new law, you must enable people to defend themselves,” Betros said. “And those people must be responsible and take and do the necessary training so they’re not just sitting there with a gun — it goes both ways.”
Rosenberg said that it is important to take some kind of legislative action to combat gun violence.
“Not doing anything isn’t an option,” she said. “And that’s what our Republican Congress has gotten us to — doing absolutely nothing.”
Betros emphasized the need for those permitted to carry a gun to be trained to use it safely, and said that public does not have enough accurate information about guns.
“It’s the ignorance of people that is getting people killed,” Betros said.