NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — School districts are spending more time and more money on security these days, but it's not all about high-tech devices.
I-Team reporter Ginger Allen walked the halls with Wylie ISD's Director of Safety and Security, who says he personally checked every door and every lock. That's nearly 500 doors on 20 campuses. "A locked door is our best defense," said Brian Kelly. "I personally wanted to tell parents, if they asked me, that I laid eyes on the doors of their student's school."
Kelly's job is to keep danger out of the classroom. It's a mission that has taken on new meaning this year in every district. "Uvalde was certainly a wake-up call," said Kelly. "We can't afford to be relaxed."
Prosper ISD's police chief feels the same way. "We have to be ready to respond to the unthinkable," said Chad Vessels. "Because unfortunately the society that we live in, we never know if we're going to be next."
In Prosper, that means plenty of police. Unlike most DFW-area districts, Prosper ISD has officers assigned at every campus - even elementary schools.
Each high school has two officers and two security guards.
Vessels praises the administration for beefing up the force. "It's a credit to our school board, our superintendent and our assistant superintendent for having that vision."
In nearby Frisco, a high-tech vision for safety started all the way back in 2008 with the creation of the SAFER program. SAFER - or Situational Awareness For Emergency Response - combines the resources of the city and the school district in real-time.
In a school emergency, Frisco first responders can view campus cameras, floorplans of every district building, even the chemicals used in science labs. FISD's director of emergency management says that level of integration helps everyone in a crisis. "It really represents a whole of government approach that is really not found elsewhere in the United States," said John Bodie.
Garland ISD also boasts a safety feature that is rarely found in schools: a 24/7 dispatch center. The center monitors nearly 4,300 security cameras all day, every day - 365 days a year. It's the kind of operation you'd typically find in a police department, not a school district.
Mark Quinn is GISD's director of safety and security. He worked in law enforcement for nearly two decades, including four years as an SRO, before joining the district. Now he works with police departments in Garland, Rowlett and Sachse to help protect campuses located in all three jurisdictions.
"We monitor their radio, we know their radio traffic and what they've got working," said Quinn. "So if we had an incident at one of our schools we could patch them in and work it together."
In addition to round-the-clock dispatchers, GISD also has prop alarms on every exterior door. If any of those doors are kept open too long, dispatchers receive an alert and can contact the school to close the door.
Quinn says it's just one more tool, to increase safety across the district. "A kid can't learn if they're looking over their shoulder. A kid can't learn if they're scared of coming to school," said Quinn. "I want to be the one - and my team wants to be the one - to ease that fear."
While many districts didn't want to share details of their security publicly, they will tell parents. You can ask your child's principal or look up the district's safety director.
You can watch Frisco's entire video about SAFER here.
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