March 31, 2013

Task force recommends stationing officers at every Southlake public school

Southlake police officers will be stationed at the Carroll school district's 11 campuses starting next fall -- a security response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last year.

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SOUTHLAKE -- Southlake police officers will be stationed at the Carroll school district's 11 campuses starting next fall -- a security response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last year.

"The community has spoken, and the community desires to have a police officer in every school," said Southlake Police Chief Stephen Mylett.

Mylett is part of a task force recommending that armed officers be assigned to every Southlake public school. Under the proposed expansion, 13 officers will cover all Carroll schools. The plan also may include Florence Elementary, which sits in the Southlake city limits but is within the Keller school district boundaries.

Mylett said all of the money for the expansion will come from the city's Crime Control Prevention District, which is a voter-approved half-cent sales tax earmarked for safety and security initiatives.

This summer, Southlake's City Council is expected to approve a $190,000 budget amendment to fund two months of the project. Another $700,000 will be approved as part of the Crime Control Prevention District 2014 budget, which gets final approval from the council.

Read Ballew, president of the Carroll school board, said student safety is critical.

"Our city is taking it very seriously," said Ballew, who was also a member of the task force.

The task force was created by Mayor John Terrell after gunman Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012. The massacre troubled the nation and prompted many communities to work to make schools safer.

Other districts

The Southlake and Carroll schools are among several North Texas communities and school districts exploring how to tighten security after the mass shooting.

Birdville school officials are considering hiring more security officers, including armed guards, for next school year. Cleburne school officials recently decided not to pursue a proposal that would have allowed teachers, administrators and other staff members to carry guns on campus.

School security also is an issue in Austin, where a Texas lawmaker, Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, has proposed using a half-billion drawdown from the state's Rainy Day Fund to help school districts increase security.

"Parents really started questioning just how safe their kids are when they are at school," Mylett said, adding that while the potential for violence can't be completely eliminated, having a peace officer at every Southlake school provides a "level of deterrence."

Carroll Trustee John Thane said the shooting put the campus safety issue on the forefront.

"This is something that is on the minds of parents everywhere," Thane said.

Mylett said the Newtown massacre prompted many Southlake residents to call the city.

"They were afraid and justifiably so," Mylett said.

Building relationships

Currently there is one full-time school resource officer at Carroll Senior High School, which is the campus for juniors and seniors, and one full-time school resource officer at Carroll High School, where freshmen and sophomores attend class. Carroll and Dawson middle schools have a split school resource officer presence.

Mylett said that under the expansion, the high schools and middle schools will have full-time school resource officers staffed by Southlake officers who work other beats when classes are not in session.

The elementary and intermediate schools will be staffed by officers who are specifically assigned to the schools and work 10 months out of the year. "When school is in session, these officers will work," Mylett said.

Mylett said these positions will likely be filled by veteran officers who are either nearing the end of their careers or coming back to the profession after retirement.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Diane Smith, 817-390-7675

Twitter: @dianeasmith1

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