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School security is a top priority

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., was a watershed event that may forever change the way we feel about school security.

The tragic deaths of 20 schoolchildren and six school employees galvanized the nation, and people everywhere began to consider a critical question — what if it happened here?

Officials at several area private and public schools have begun discussions about what can be done to ensure the safety of students and some have begun to improve security on school campuses.

Last month, the Denton school board began discussing the district’s safety and security measures, including card access at all campuses, increased secured entrances at school campuses, increased emphasis on lockdown drills, improved visitor procedures at school campuses and increased interaction with local police.

For about 15 years, the school district has partnered with local municipalities in employing full-time certified police officers who are armed and in uniform on its three high school and six middle school campuses, said Sharon Cox, a district spokeswoman. Those officers, she said, are on call to assist at the district’s non-traditional and elementary schools when needed.

Cox said that to provide a viable police presence, mostly on elementary campuses, on-duty officers have parked in the school parking lots to write up reports. They also come to have lunch with students.

The safety and security discussion was the first of several slated to come before the school board throughout the spring semester.

At Liberty Christian School in Argyle, off-duty uniformed officers, hired by the private school, now have a more visible presence on campus, said Michelle Simms, the school’s director of advertising and marketing. Additionally, a security consultant group has been hired to review the school’s security measures and address any safety issues.

Just recently the Ponder school board unanimously approved installing a limited access entry at the district’s elementary campus, and the Argyle public school district, on Jan. 29, hired Craft International LLC of Dallas to conduct a risk assessment for all the district’s facilities, Superintendent Telena Wright said.

Other area districts and private schools are conducting their own security assessments, and in our view, that’s a wise precaution.

Many districts — the Denton ISD included — already have commendable security measures in place, and we are certain that student safety has long been a top priority on all Denton County campuses — private and public.

However, one can never rest when it comes to ensuring students’ safety, and reviews of security procedures and investments in professional advice are time and money well spent.

Responding to parents’ fears in the wake of a tragedy is no knee-jerk reaction; rather, it is a clear expression of concern, and of caring, and it is appreciated.

School security must be a top priority for everyone, whether we have children now attending class or not.

If we are attuned to security, if we keep our eyes and ears open and stand ready to help when needed — including financial support for necessary security expenditures — our schools will continue to be safe and secure.