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Kennedale school district refiles emergency safety plan

12/25/2012 10:04 PM

12/26/2012 11:13 AM

Kennedale school district officials have refiled a required safety and security audit with the state after Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott criticized it and 77 other districts for not being compliant.

On Dec. 17, in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shootings. Abbott said that the school districts either had failed to submit emergency response plans or had filed plans that were too incomplete to be useful, The Associated Press reported. Districts are required to file the audits at least once every three years.

The district did file an audit with the Texas School Safety Center, but officials were notified “that some of the documentation appeared to be noncompliant,” district spokeswoman Erin Hyden said.

District officials worked with the Texas School Safety Center to correct the information and resubmitted the audit. On Thursday, the attorney general’s office updated its list to show that Kennedale and 49 of the other districts are now in compliance.

Abbott's finding came three days after Gov. Rick Perry ordered a statewide review to ensure that Texas schools are prepared to handle attacks such as the Dec. 14 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 people dead, including 20 children.

"There's nothing we can do to bring back the loss of life of the schoolchildren in Connecticut," Abbott said at a news conference. "There is, however, something we can do to make sure schoolchildren in Texas will not meet a similar fate."

Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Hyden said, many campuses have conducted routine lockdown drills and have held faculty meetings to encourage heightened awareness of all happenings in the schools. Campuses have increased security and have added personnel at school entrances.

"We take every tip and report extremely seriously," she said. "We have extensive security measures and protocols in place that are conducted whenever a report or tip is communicated."

Kennedale Police Chief Tommy Williams, whose department assigns resource officers to campuses, said last week that the department had stepped up its school visibility after the shooting and that the community seemed to be comfortable with it.

"This seems to be working," he said. "I have not had any parent contact me about what steps we are taking for added security."

Meanwhile, Mansfield school trustees heard a previously scheduled update on the district's emergency response plan at their Dec. 18 meeting.

Planned security enhancements at Mansfield schools include more security cameras, keyless entry systems, reconfiguration of some school entrances, telephone and radio system upgrades, and panic buttons.

Some of the enhancements are part of the 2011 bond program and are already being made.

In Grand Prairie, police say they will provide additional security at elementary campuses beginning in January.

The security enhancements, being made to "better protect our youngest, most defenseless children in our elementary schools," will include meeting with school districts in the city to review security plans and make recommendations.

Patrol officers will meet with administrators of elementary schools in their beats to establish good working relationships.

Day-shift patrol officers will do a walk-through of each elementary school on their beats to become familiar with the school's layout. The officers will stop by each school on their beats at least once during each school day.

School resource officers assigned to middle and high schools will check in with their feeder elementary schools at least once each school day.

Staff writer Deanna Boyd contributed to this report.

Patrick M. Walker, 817-983-8080

Twitter: @patrickmwalker1

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