Like many parents, Police Chief James Brandon has had difficult discussions about school shooting scenarios with his children.
“It’s a shame that conversations like that have to happen with any child,” Brandon said.
More than 100 Southlake parents packed into The Marq on this week to hear what steps the city and Carroll school district are taking to campuses safe.
Carroll has stationed a school resource officer at all 11 campuses, something Brandon described as rare. The majority of the $1.3 million in annual funding for those officers comes from Southlake’s, Crime Control and Prevention District, which collects a half-cent sales tax.
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“There are very few districts that have a school resource officer in every single school,” Brandon said.
Besides patrolling the school, the officers mentor students, meet with parents and teach classes.
Brandon addressed the nationally divisive topic of arming teachers by saying it would create a “nightmare situation” for officers. With fully trained officers in every campus, the response time to any incident is nearly instant, he said. He added that he would not support arming teachers, prompting applause.
“I’m sure there may be some teachers who are [military] veterans or gun enthusiasts,” Brandon said. “If there are several armed adults, we don’t know who is who. You’re all a bad guy in our mind. We can’t stop in those situations and figure out who is who.”
He pointed out that police officers are trained to think clearly during high-stress, life-or-death scenarios. Even the best police officers have a target hit rate of less than 20 percent when trying to fight an armed suspect.
Discharging a round inside a classroom is a nightmare, even if the defender has noble intentions.
“It’s not shooting at a paper target,” Brandon said. “It’s shooting at something that’s trying to kill you.”
The 170-plus Texas districts that allow teachers to bring firearms are typically in rural areas where the sheriff's department would take several minutes to respond, he said. Millsap, a tiny district near Weatherford, for example, this week approved concealed-carry for teachers, joining the neighboring Peaster and Brock districts, which already allow it.
Carroll has also added equipment and procedures to fortify its campuses, including the security vestibules that funnel all visitors through the campus office before they can enter the campus, said Superintendent David Faltys. Voters approved bond funds to pay for that.
The door hardware itself has been updated so it can be controlled remotely. And all visitors must have their driver’s license scanned to check sexual predator lists.
The district is also utilizing technology in new ways. In the past, Faltys said, security cameras were more focused on protecting building assets. In recent years, after the district conducted safety audits, teachers can now pull up security camera footage on their mobile devices and follow a suspect through the building.
Faltys also talked about the district’s counselors and behavioral specialists availability to address mental health issues.
At home, Brandon added, it’s critical that parents keep guns locked in a safe so children cannot access them. If a student makes a threat, the police will investigate to see if they have access to weapons.
“We need as a society to have a conversation about ‘how do we prevent those decisions from ever being made,’ ” Brandon said.
Nicholas Sakelaris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.