Arlington school trustees look to boost security at elementary campuses

Posted Monday, Jan. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A little more than a month after the shootings at a Connecticut elementary school, the Arlington school board is considering boosting security at all of its elementary schools.

Administrators are recommending installing buzzer systems at the main entrance of all 51 grade schools to enhance the present security cameras along with a visitor screening system and new keyless entry system.

School board members were told at their meeting last week that the estimated cost of the system is $224,400, which could come out of the $10.6 million in surplus 2009 bond funds that are earmarked for security infrastructure.

Trustees told administrators to gather more information about the systems and report back.

"I'm all in favor of that. It's a good idea that the public will be amenable to," said President Peter Baron. "It is no more inconvenient than looking through the peephole to see who is at the front door."

On Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn., Adam Lanza, armed with a military-style assault rifle, shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School. He killed 20 children and six adults before taking his own life.

The shootings have school systems across Texas and the country reviewing their security systems.

In the system being proposed in Arlington, all doors would be locked during the school day, and visitors would press a buzzer at the main entrance to request entry. A camera would send the visitor's image to a monitor in the office, where staff would control the door.

Once inside the building, visitors would still be directed to check in at the office and undergo a visitor background check.

During the open forum earlier in the meeting, two members of the public spoke on the subject of campus security, with very different perspectives.

"There are bad guns and good guns," said Robert Morrison, "Good guns are in the hands of responsible citizens. Why are guns looked upon so badly when we want to protect our most valuable asset, our children?"

He called on trustees to allow school staff members with concealed-handgun licenses to carry guns on campus, and to remove "Gun Free Zone" signs. The board has already been approached by local gun activists about allowing teachers, administrators and staff to be allowed to carry weapons.

Luis Castillo, who identified himself as a former peace officer, offered his own two-point plan.

"It's one thing to have a licensed handgun permit and another to use it," he said. "Not everyone is cut for that."

Castillo advocated increasing law enforcement presence at elementary schools "without the exorbitant cost," he said.

"We should seek creative ways to bring uniformed law enforcement officers to elementary campuses," he said.

Castillo's second suggestion involved hiring 60 campus monitors for elementary schools, at a first-year cost of $2.5 million.

Last week, Lamar High School was locked down for a short time after a student told a school resource officer that another student had brought a gun to school.

Police searched but found no gun.

Staff writer Max B. Baker contributed to this report.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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