School officials: ‘Students’ safety is our number one priority’

Lamar County school officials want families to rest assured their children’s safety remains the utmost priority.

North Lamar ISD’s Police Chief Mike Boaz, echoing the sentiment all districts share, said “our thoughts and prayers go out to the community of Uvalde.”

Plan for Critical Incidents

North Lamar ISD’s plan for critical incidents provides a safe avenue for its students and staff in the event of an active shooter.

“We train our staff members each year and conduct drills throughout the school year to stay updated,” Boaz said. “We also adopted a plan and put it in place several years ago, to have staff members who are trained and armed. They are placed in strategic locations within the district for the protection of the students.”

Chisum ISD Police Chief Vance Boehler said Chisum has “numerous things in place to ensure our students and staff remain safe.”

“We practice active shooter drills several times a year. We do soft lockdowns as well as full lockdowns,” Boehler said. “Every year we train every single staff member in CPR and Stop the bleed training every year.”

Boehler said Chisum ISD’s staff trains multiple times over the summer, “and at least once during the school year – sometimes more.”

Jeff Ballard, Prairiland ISD Superintendent said the district’s doors are locked at all times, all glass is shatterproof, all visitors are questioned before entering the building and teachers are trained on lockdowns and safety protocols.

Paris ISD established its school-based police department nine years ago “to ensure the safety and security of our students and staff,” said Paris ISD Director of Safety and Security Brad Ruthart.

Paris ISD houses one officer at each campus, with two on the high school’s campus; and the assistant chief monitors each campus throughout the day, monitoring the parking lots and outside buildings.

“Paris ISD police department currently has ten TECOLE certified armed police officers. All the police officers have more than 20 years of law enforcement experience and all have thousands of mandated training hours,” Ruthart said.

Ruthart said officers are trained in all facets of school-based policing – mental health training, conflict resolution, threat assessment, and other school-based police tactics.

“Each officer is highly qualified and dedicated to the well-being of the students and the district,” Ruthart said.

Paris ISD also uses a state-of-the-art video surveillance system, covering 100% of each campus and is monitored by campus police and staff. The district has also used grants and donations to increase physical security – buildings, doors, windows and classrooms.

While all Paris ISD campuses are considered “closed campuses”, visitors, similar to the other districts, have to enter each school through the front door. Visitors are “buzzed in,” visit the main office, present valid ID card – scanned into the school’s check-in system, examining the visitor’s potential criminal history.

“A visitor must have a valid reason for being inside the school. Under most circumstances, only parents, guardians, or grandparents are allowed inside,” Ruthart said.

Having faculty and staff at Paris ISD trained in the ALICE active shooter response method empowers them to assess and act on a situation accordingly – encouraging them to fight, hide or run based on subjective circumstances.

Teachers Trained to Carry

Some teachers at Prairiland, Chisum and North Lamar ISD are trained to carry a firearm, and according to officials are “strategically placed throughout the district for the protection of the students.”

Ballard said Prairiland ISD’s staff handgun qualify during the year, and each person goes through training with a licensed professional each summer.

“The number one reason for those carrying,” Ballard said, “is to make contact with the shooter and to take attention away from the kids and give law enforcement time to get to our campuses.”

Boehler said Chisum has its guardian members throughout the district “to cover all of our points of entry on all of our campuses.”

“Our guardian members train several times a year separate from the student and the rest of the staff,” Boehler said.

Boaz said NLISD adopted a plan put in place to have some staff members trained and armed.

“They are placed in strategic locations within the district for the protection of the students,” Boaz said.

‘See something, say something’ – How To Report

Ballard (P’land ISD) said the number one preventative measure to stop any dire situation is to report anything unusual to faculty or staff as soon as possible.

“Contact any teacher or school personnel if they know something,” Ballard said. “Even if it seems very minor.”

Paris ISD has an app and website for students “or anyone to report situations.”

“The reporter may remain anonymous, if desired,” Ruthart (PISD) said. “We ask students, staff, parents, and all citizens to report anything they deem unusual on social media.”

Ruthart said everyone is encouraged to keep them informed about anything someone feels they should know.

“No matter how big or small of an incident, it is our job at PISD to keep our students and faculty safe,” Ruthart said.

Boehler said staff at Chisum ISD are trained to not only see something, say something.

“We have our staff members report to resource officers and/or administration if anyone or anything doesn’t look right or a person isn’t acting right,” Boehler said. “We address those concerns as quickly as possible. Most of our teachers will interact with the person in question that doesn’t seem to be acting right and carry on a conversation with them until someone from the safety teams we have in place can come to the location of the troubled person.”

Boaz said North Lamar ISD’s student crime stoppers program works “well in handling reports of threats.”

“Crime Stoppers and our threat assessment teams that were formed after Senate Bill 11, have proven to be very productive resources,” Boaz said.

‘Your child’s well-being, safety, security are top priorities’

Officials at each district ensure children’s safety is the number one priority.

“Rest assured, your children’s well-being, safety, and security are top priorities at Paris ISD,” Ruthart said.

Boehler, echoing Ruthart, said Chisum has safety as its highest priority.

“If our staff and kids are safe and feel safe they can learn and succeed without any worry. Chisum constantly looks for ways to make the district safer,” Boehler said.

Boaz said all of these programs working along with the North Lamar Police Officers, have been very efficient in handling threats as they arise.

“Our students’ safety is our number one priority,” Boaz said.

Ballard said its teacher and school personnel are there to ensure students remain safe while going through school’s day-to-day activities.

“We want to make sure every step is taken because the safety of our students and staff alike remain and will always be the top priority,” Ballard said.

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