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Southlake Develops Task Force For School Security

SOUTHLAKE (CBSDFW.COM) - The Monday after the Connecticut school shooting, John Terrell's phone started ringing. Parents in Southlake worried for their children's safety, weren't calling the schools. They were calling the city mayor. Within days Terrell turned those calls into a mayor's task force that has started identifying threats and solutions for all of the city's schools.

Thursday, a task force including the city police chief, private security, and a representative from Homeland Security started meeting to identify all potential threats. The task force will consider expanding the current roster of three school resource offices to 11, one for each campus. It's just one possible solution though for a list of threats still being assembled.

The group has been tasked to go beyond simply armed defenses against active shooters and take what Police Chief Steve Mylett called a holistic approach to the problem. Drug abuse could be on the list of threats. Emotional difficulties could be there too. The group is casting a wide net.

"It's about total wellness and safety of our kids," Terrell said. "It's about every issue that puts our kids at risk."

To address those issues, the city has also reached out to local pastors. Terrell said they could be instrumental in addressing underlying issues that a simple security solution may miss.

Parents like Leigh Wambsganns originally called the city, instead of the Carroll Independent School District, for good reason. Public safety professionals, she said, should handle public safety. The mother of a local fourth-grader, also believes due to CISD's standing as a Robin Hood district that has to give up some of its school funding, it would take less tax dollars for the city to fund a safety solution.

Addressing funding for any eventual solution is something the task force has to address. Terrell estimated adding eight resource officers could take the cost for the program up to $1 million. There has been no decision on how the city and district would handle funding any solution. Terrell agreed with school board president Read Ballew though, that it would be figured out after they decide what the long term measures are.

"Money's an issue in everything that we do, but safety will be priority number one," Ballew said.

CISD has been informed on discussions between parents and the city. School principals are serving on the sub-committee addressing threats. There is direct communication on security now between city council members and board members, in far more detail than there has been in the past. There is no timeline though for the task force to finish its work and implement a solution. Terrell said the next step is to encourage community participation in the process.

"From not only the facility security side, but the drugs, alcohol and teen suicides that have occurred the past couple years," he said. "That's critically important to all of us and I want them to get involved."

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