SAN ANTONIO — Schools are meant to be sanctuaries of safety, not places where families gather to mourn their murdered loved ones.
“Hey, it could be my kids. You feel for those parents at the loss of a kid. It’s the worst thing you ever want to think. That’s the worst thing that a parent could ever go through,” said Shane Allard, who heads security and safety at Northside ISD.
The mass shooting in Uvalde has prompted questions about school safety nationwide and whether enough is being done to prepare students and staff for the worst.
Tuesday’s tragedy at Robb Elementary has reminded Allard about the importance of his years-long mission when he joined Northside ISD in 2014.
“I noticed when I first came in the district we didn’t have a really or uniform active shooter training program,” he said.
Allard’s main job is to provide the state an audit of the school district’s safety and security protocols. He’s also been instrumental in creating an active shooter training program for elementary and secondary schools.
The pandemic halted the drills, but he noted schools perform such trainings on average two to three times a year.
The comprehensive trainings go into depth regarding how students and staff should respond in the event of an active shooter by using the ‘Run, Hide, Fight’ model.
Allard said the Uvalde shooting has led to a flood of school requests for trainings in preparation for next school year.
“My calendar now is blowing up saying we need to get you out here, especially for next year,” he said. “No one can be 100% prepared for anything. But we are prepared that we can – we have it down.”
Allard detailed the security infrastructure found at facilities districtwide with an emphasis on elementary schools.
“We have our fences. You look at the school in Uvalde had a four-foot fence. Every fence in Northside at an elementary is 6-foot plus. We have security cameras. We’re pushing upwards of over 8,000 security cameras,” Allard said.
Northside also has more than 100 armed law enforcement officers at every middle and high school campus assigned full-time.
Every elementary cluster has one -full-time police officer patrolling the area ready to respond to an incident.
Elementary schools are fitted with bullet-resistant security lobbies and technology-controlled entry points.
One of the ongoing challenges is training all the district staff in school behavioral threat assessment in accordance with requirements outlined by Texas Senate Bill 11.
“That’s one of the biggest issues we’re having right now is school behavioral threat assessment teams, but I know our deputy superintendent is going to mandate that the following five people minimum get trained – one is their principals, their vice principals, their counselor, their special ed teacher and then their LSSP (licensed specialist in school psychology),” Allard said.
Northside ISD’ safety protocols are constantly evaluated throughout the year in preparation for any future threat.
“A tragedy like the one that took place earlier this week I think are reminders to us that we have to stay vigilant, that we can’t let our guard down,” said Barry Perez, Northside ISD’s communication director.
Perez noted counselors are available to help students and staff navigate through the emotional trauma of the mass shooting in Uvalde.