Austin of­fi­cials: Too early to broach se­cu­rity change

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Claire Os­born, Ciara O’rourke and Ben­jam­inwer­mund cos­born@states­ corourke@states­ bw­er­mund@states­ Con­tact Claire Os­born at 246-0040; Ciara O’rourke at 512-392-8750; Ben­jamin Wermund at 246-1150.

AUSTIN — Cen­tral Texas school of­fi­cials ex­pressed grief Fri­day about the fa­tal shoot­ings at a Con­necti­cut ele­men­tary school but said it was too soon to de­ter­mine what, if any, new se­cu­rity mea­sures are needed here.

“It’s way too early to dis­cuss that,” said Austin school district po­lice Capt. Chris­tian Evoy. He said the district has no per­ma­nent po­lice of­fi­cers at ele­men­tary schools but there are pa­trols in the ar­eas. There are armed of­fi­cers at the mid­dle and high schools, he said.

A no­tice sent to all San Mar­cos district em­ploy­ees said the shoot­ings “re­mind us of the im­por­tance of re­view­ing our prac­tices and poli­cies.”

“Please con­tinue your daily vig­i­lance by en­sur­ing … your emer­gency man­u­als are read­ily avail­able, that staff have their badges on and vis­i­tors have been cleared to be in the build­ing,” the no­tice says.

The district is weigh­ing how to fol­low up on the shoot­ing with stu­dents Mon­day, said district spokes­woman Iris Camp­bell. The Round Rock and Hays school dis­tricts sent let­ters to par­ents Fri­day with tips for talk­ing to chil­dren about the shoot­ings.

Gov. Rick Perry on Fri­day asked that Texas Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sioner Michael Wil­liams di­rect dis­tricts to re­view emer­gency op­er­a­tion plans in the wake of the Con­necti­cut shoot­ing. One top state of­fi­cial said it might be time for dis­tricts to have more armed em­ploy­ees on cam­puses.

“The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor for the school shoot­ings in Aurora, Columbine and Vir­ginia Tech is that we have a tar­get­rich en­vi­ron­ment,” Texas Land Com­mis­sioner Jerry Pat­ter­son told the Hous­ton Chron­i­cle. “You have a shooter that is com­pletely free to go about his sick fan­tasy. We need to do what it takes to change that.”

Evoy said the Austin school district is “very pre­pared” and has an up­dated cri­sis man­age­ment plan but de­clined to dis­cuss whether schools have metal de­tec­tors.

Vis­i­tors to Austin cam­puses are re­quired to check in at the main of­fices, present iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, state the rea­son for their visit and ob­tain a vis­i­tor’s badge, ac­cord­ing to district pol­icy. School staff have been trained to be alert to strangers in the hall­ways, Evoy said.

“AISD asks our team mem­bers, fam­i­lies and com­mu­nity mem­bers to help us en­sure our schools re­main safe by alert­ing prin­ci­pals if they have any safety con­cerns or see peo­ple whom they do not rec­og­nize,” said Su­per­in­ten­dent Me­ria Carstarphen in a state­ment.

Kelsey Robin­son, a school district spokes­woman, said coun­selors are avail­able to stu­dents. The district has not im­ple­mented any bud­get cuts that af­fected the num­ber of coun­selors on cam­puses, of­fi­cials said.

Schools have only one un­locked door — the front door, said John Gaete, the district’s emer­gency man­age­ment staff co­or­di­na­tor. Each school has sev­eral drills through­out the year, in­clud­ing evac­u­a­tion drills, he said.

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