Austin officials: Too early to broach security change
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.