Fort Hood stepped in to help the Copperas Cove Independent School District after campus security was increased in the wake of multiple bomb threats at its secondary schools.
Fort Hood Military Police and K-9 units are collaborating with Cove fire and police to provide a continuous roving guard presence at every campus throughout the district.
At S.C. Lee Junior High School, members of its adopted unit, the 62nd Signal Battalion, have been on hand to help staff and students.
“We are there as a safety presence,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Woody B. Carter. “We are there to help out and make sure the students and staff feel secure.”
Speaking Thursday, Carter said the battalion has been sending about 10 soldiers to the campus each day. Once there, they help teachers and provide escorts for students around campus and to the buses.
“I think it helps keeps everybody calm,” Carter said. “The students really feel safe and secure, despite the rumors. In the end, we really just want to be there and help.”
Earlier this month, district and Copperas Cove Police Department officials acknowledged a threat that was found on Facebook, which stated that Copperas Cove High School will be “shot up and bombed” on Dec. 21. Even though police and Superintendent Joseph Burns said there was “no truth” to those rumors, the district and the department said there were plans to heighten security.
In addition to the extra manpower from Fort Hood and local police, the district appears to be using a number of other security measures.
Witnesses, including parents and Cove middle and high school students, reported students and their belongings were being searched prior to entering the school, and confirmed the use of metal detectors.
Those security measures and others will remain in place indefinitely, according to the district.
The increased security in Copperas Cove comes at a time when many schools across the country are likely reviewing safety measures in the wake of a Dec. 14 shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, which left 20 children and six adults dead. The gunman also killed his mother and himself.
In the days after the Newtown, Conn., shooting, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott urged school districts to review their safety plans, and released a list of 78 Texas districts that did not meet reporting and safety standards.
On Dec. 17, state education commissioner Michael Williams called on all districts to review their emergency operation plans.
On Dec. 14, the Killeen Independent School District released a statement that said its emergency plans and procedures were reviewed by district staff and principals at a Dec. 13 meeting.
“Killeen ISD is continually looking at the district’s emergency plans and procedures to ensure they are being followed and are ready to be implemented, if necessary,” the statement read.
While districts like Cove and Killeen seek to protect students from threats of violence, simply increasing security may not be the answer.
A statement released Wednesday by the Interdisciplinary Group on Preventing School and Community Violence, made up of university researchers from across the country, called for more effective prevention efforts.
“Inclinations to intensify security in schools should be reconsidered,” the statement reads. “We cannot and should not turn our schools into fortresses.”
The statement, co-written by a group of nine college professors, instead calls for improving communication and trust between students, families, the community and law enforcement as well as improving access to mental health services and limiting the availability of firearms to those unable or unwilling to use them in a lawful manner.
“A balanced approach implies well-integrated programs that make sense and are effective,” the statement reads. “Although it may be logical to control public entrances to a school, reliance on metal detectors, security cameras, guards, and entry check points is unlikely to provide protection against all school-related shooting, including the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.”
As these larger issues continue to be discussed by researchers, pundits and politicians, districts like the ones in Killeen and Copperas Cove will continue to manage the need for security with the desire to create an ideal learning environment for students.