SAN ANTONIO -- Even though the bloodshed at Sandy Hook Elementary School happened nearly 2,000 miles away, the North East Independent School District is still reaching out to its students.
The district is sending a notes home to parents saying that school counselors will be available in case their children are fearful of their own safety and want to talk on Monday.
“This is an unspeakable tragedy," said NEISD spokesperson Aubrey Chancellor. "It’s unthinkable.”
It may be unthinkable, but districts are required by the Texas Education Code to think about the potential for deadly violence on their own school campus and, most importantly, a plan to combat it.
For nearly the past decade, most local school districts have sent their police officers to the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) at Texas State University in San Marcos.
As part of the training, officers respond to a simulation of an active shooter situation at a school.
ALERRT Director Terry Nichols said he will take a close look at Friday’s shooting in Connecticut to see if changes can be made to training.
"We look at every situation that happens, because we can learn from everything,” he said. “It might be that we are doing it the right way and validate what we are doing. Or it might change some tactic or technique that we are using."
Just in case
Judson ISD spokesman Steve Linscomb said, “We practice them. And we have a procedure down and a policy down about how we handle these kinds of situations so when they do come up, everybody knows what the plan is.”
Three of Bexar County’s largest school districts told KENS 5 they will learn from the tragedy in Connecticut and incorporate lessons from it in their own school emergency plans.
Judson, Northside and Northeast school districts were reluctant to give away any specifics of their plans, saying it could jeopardize the students’ safety. Most schools require a check-in at the front office and proper identification before admitting anyone into areas where children may be present.
There are code words that spawn instant school lockdowns. There are hidden panic buttons, cameras in many schools in addition to campus police. But school officials admit these procedures are “reactionary” in nature.
Reporting red flags
Northside ISD spokesperson Pascual Gonzalez added, “If someone is that intent on causing harm to the children of your school, it really does present a challenge to all of us.”
District officials spoke of another tool: the public.
With access to rantings on Facebook, blogs, text messages and in conversation, the public is really the first line of defense against a potential tragedy.
“We really, really need people to share information with us,” Gonzalez stressed.
Chancellor added, “It takes parents. It takes community members, whether you have someone in the school or not. It takes every single one of us to look out for our children."