Like parents and school personnel across the nation, Glen Rose ISD Superintendent Wayne Rotan was "sickened" by the tragedy that struck Newtown, Conn. Friday. The news that 26 individuals - including 20 elementary school students - were killed in a shooting rampage also caused the veteran administrator to take a closer look at district security.
"Over the last few days, we have reviewed safety principals and practices with staff," Rotan said. "It's unfortunate that in this day and time we have to be very active, but I decided this would be a good time to reinforce procedures."
Monday morning, Rotan and Tommy Gibson, director of administration and support services, spent time at each of the district's four campuses and found procedures were being followed, but improvements could be made.
"We try to be very proactive, but things like this make you look at things differently. We have some things we may change," Rotan said, not offering details. "Every tragedy brings about a new set of circumstances not previously considered."
Such was the case about six years ago when a report of an intruder at one campus caused the district to restrict access. Until that point, campuses had multiple access points that remained unlocked throughout the day.
"All campuses now limit entrance to one or two doors and all others remain locked (to the outside)," he said. "We never found evidence that anything had occurred on that campus, but we did take the opportunity to tighten down."
Chief Deputy Darrell McCravey with the Somervell County Sheriff's Department said policing the school district is done with the advantage of a good working relationship between law enforcement officials and GRISD.
"Strong security has been in place for several years," McCravey said. "But we did increase our presence on campuses this morning."
McCravey said the increased patrol was put in place to remind parents that deputies are on campus throughout the day at random locations and on a varied schedule.
He also said that successfully safeguarding children relies on the public as much as it does school personnel. McCarvey said anyone who witnesses suspicious behavior or hears of safety threats should notify law enforcement officials even if they do not cause serious concern. Such activity can be reported by calling the sheriff's office at (254) 897-9414. Anonymous tips can be reported to Crime Stoppers at (254) 897-7777.
"Safety is a community effort," McCravey said.
Schools currently hold two drills across grade levels. Evacuation, a fire drill, and shelter and place, which some elementary students have called "the bad guy drill."
Reinforcing the shelter and place drill, Rotan said campus personnel have been reminded to keep classroom doors locked.
"Doors can be open when they are teaching, but they should remain locked so they can quickly be closed to secure buildings and classrooms," he said. "We are reviewing the plan and following it."
Furthermore, Rotan said he is calling for an additional security audit. He said the audit is performed every two years, but he is asking the Texas School Safety Center for a complete evaluation in the spring. The audit includes mock intruders and other security drills.
Following the audit, a district review could lead to the implementation of new security measures.
Cause for concern
In the wake of Friday's northeastern tragedy, security at a neighboring school district and nearby university was increased.
As news reports updated the nation on the incident in Connecticut, GRISD issued a statement on its website, granburyisd.org, Friday.
"The highest priority of Granbury ISD is the safety and security of our students and staff. We have many security measures in place, and we take seriously any threat against our schools - whether it is real or a prank," the statement said.
The following day, the district responded to rumors of an "alleged threat to the security at Granbury High School."
"We understand that rumors such as this causes a high level of anxiety and speculation as to the truth – especially given the tragic events in Connecticut on Friday," the website said. "Please know that the highest priority of Granbury ISD is the safety and security of our students and staff."
School officials continued to cooperate with law enforcement officials Monday, when Granbury police and Hood County Sheriff's deputies were stationed across Granbury ISD while also working to dispel rumors.
District administration said there had not been "any specific confirmed threat," there had not been a bomb threat or gun or hit list found at any campus.
"Police have identified graffiti found on a brick on an outside wall at the high school to be a copycat of a slogan of a known computer hacker group," the latest announcement said. "We cannot confirm when this was posted, but it could have been well before last Friday."
Meanwhile, a commencement ceremony at Tarleton State University was delayed and hundreds of individuals were evacuated from Wisdom Gym Saturday. Graduates and attendees were relocated to Memorial Stadium after officials were notified a threat was made on the university campus that implied a bomb was located inside the gymnasium. Once the building was secured, a sweep of the building found nothing suspicious.