School district hires safety team

Kenneth Trump, president and CEO of the National School Safety and Security Service takes notes while listening to the voices of those at the community forum April 20, 2010.

By Tatiana Marceleno

Meeting after meeting after meeting. Each one centered around safety, security and the fear of coming to school and being harmed. After the gun incidents occurring last month, teachers and school officials made the decision to focus on the safety of students, faculty and visitors in the district. After first issuing a directive to install metal detectors at the high school, the school board came to a conclusion to bring in a safety consulting company into the district to see what is really needed to secure the district.
“The board and I have decided to hire a national school safety and security service with over 25 years of expertise in school safety,” Superintendent Dr. Alfred Ray said. “They’re here to conduct a school district wide assessment of school facilities and safety procedures.”
The results from the week-long visit by the company will be presented at the May 10 school board meeting. The consulting team began their program April 20 by interviewing various employees in the district and a community forum in the performance hall. Kenneth Trump, the president and CEO of the National School Safety and Security Service program, spoke about the company’s plans of observing the schools in the district. Concerned parents and citizens of the community came out to hear of the districts plans for the future safety of students.
“The reality is that today in our schools, we have to be prepared on a day to day basis to deal with bullying, aggressive behavior and things that we’ve seen for many years with young people,” Trump said. “We tend to react to high profile incidents, but we have to make sure we look at the big picture overall.”
The consultants main priority is to assure a safe district, but before digging down into the school’s security background, they began by evaluating the staff’s understanding of the importance of safety for all students.
“The thing that we really look at before we start looking at the physical security pieces, is what is the awareness?,” Trump said. “We want to see what the climate, the culture and the mindset is before we make any decisions.”
Concerned teachers and administrators weren’t afraid to speak out when the time came. History teacher David Williams said he is concerned about the safety of his children, who will soon be attending the district.
“I appreciate it that they understand security is not just about hardware and security officers but about the overall safety of our schools,” Williams said.
Comments from different people of in the community were given throughout the evaluation process. One concerned parent whose children attend the Duncanville schools stressed the issue of bullying and the lack of prevention from teachers and staff.
“I’ll report things that happen to my children to the counselor, but it seems it just stops there and the next day something else happens,” the parent said. “I find that it’s not just my children, it’s other kids.”
Using the information they received, the security team was ready to move on to their next step in the process. Their plans were put into action. They began touring the campus in search of high risk areas and common areas to everyone such as gyms, cafeterias and auditoriums. Not long after the walk through, the team handed out student surveys, questioning student’s safety levels.
After hearing the responses from the community, Trump and his team continued with their security process.
“Our approach is to take several angles, but first we look at policies and procedures related to safety and security plans,” Trump said. “Through the physical walk through, we look for any disconnects between policies and practice. We try to get a feel for differences between perceptions and reality, especially after an incident where the community, staff and students are concerned.”
The same routine was carried out at every campus in the district in search of what could be improved for a safer environment. The main thing Trump observed throughout his experience is that people want to be part of the process. Students agree that the school needs to be a safer place whatever needs to be done.
“I think the safety of our school could be better,” sophomore Raul Gonzalez said. “With the outside halls always being crowded, the only place I really feel safe is the band hall.”
Overall, the four days of testing and security services was a decision worth while. The board’s conclusion not only held off the metal detector installation, but brought in helpful information that will be used to make a more informed decision about security within the district.
“Often times, the road we recommend in the long run costs them less than if they were making some well intended, but perhaps unnecessary decisions,” Trump said. “You can spend a lot of money on physical security issues that may create the perception of enhanced security, but in reality may do very little.”