The Aledo school district has decided not to let its teachers pack heat. But that doesn't mean district leaders are standing pat when it comes to school security.
At a regular meeting Monday, March 19, trustees approved the hiring of three additional officers for the district's Police Department. The hiring becomes effective in the 2018-19 school year, although district officials said they are considering bringing them on board immediately.
"This is a significant move forward with our focus on safety, and we are thankful for the support and vision of our school board in this process," said Aledo Superintendent Derek Citty.
Citty said he will not recommend concealed carry for district personnel, and school board President Jay Stringer said trustees have no plans to pursue the subject. The neighboring Weatherford school district is currently considering concealed-carry and has held two public hearings. Concealed-carry is already in place in the Brock and Peaster districts and soon will be in Millsap, whose board approved it this week.
In Millsap, the program "will involve extremely intensive, multi-tiered training, Superintendent Deann Lee said Friday, March 30. "We have been in open discussions with all stakeholders including students, staff, parents, community and law enforcement for the entire school year. There has been overwhelming support, particularly once people knew that an interview, psychological [assessment] and hours upon hours of training are involved.
"We would prefer not to even consider arming teachers, but because of today’s circumstances and our location, we will do everything possible to keep our kids and staff safe."
The district has six officers who serve under Police Chief Fred Collie. Adding three officers will allow for a full-time law enforcement presence on all 10 Aledo campuses.
“It provides a measure of protection," said Citty, the Aledo superintendent. "They are armed ... with lethal force. This is a commitment to further protect our kids."
The cost of hiring the new officers is about $46,000 each. Although the district didn't hold town halls on school security, school board President Jay Stringer said some residents contacted the district with requests for more officers. Also, one resident spoke about it at the regular board meeting on Monday, March 19.
"We received a few emails, but at the end of the day, it's something the board felt was needing to be done," Stringer said. "In the nine years I've been on the board I've always been an advocate for safety. Of course our top priority is educating the students, but we can't educate them if we can't keep them safe from the carnage going on right now."
The board also approved the creation of a districtwide intervention specialist who will serve all students and address mental health issues beyond what a regular school counselor can do.
In addition, the district utilizes the Parker County Crime Stoppers as a resource for students, parents, and staff to report suspicious visitors and activities. This process can be done anonymously. Call 817-599-5555 or 1-800-942-STOP.
"We are committed to creating a safe environment for our students, and these are impactful steps to adding more protection, safety and services for our students," Citty said.