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School police idea has merit

We’ve been watching with interest as area school officials have discussed setting up their own police departments because we believe the idea has merit.

Back in the day when most school districts were small, there wasn’t much of a need for a district to have its own police force — if there was a problem at the school, everyone knew who to call.

But today, many area school districts are large, encompassing wide areas and crossing city and even county boundary lines. We can understand how that could lead to confusion in the event of an emergency and even delay response times.

Having a single police department to handle security districtwide could eliminate such problems.

We can also understand how such a plan would help calm parental fears — concerns that have been fueled by a growing number of violent incidents at schools across the country.

Surveys conducted last year by the Aubrey school district, for example, showed school safety was at the forefront of concerns for parents and residents, according to Ron Bullock, school board president.

Thus, Aubrey officials decided that establishing a police department was the best way the district could provide for the safety of staff and students, and last week, it was announced that the Aubrey Independent School District Police Department is set to officially start Oct. 28, according to interim Superintendent Debby Sanders.

The school board also appointed Jason Massengale, a district employee of more than five years, as the new department’s police chief. Massengale, 33, has been serving as Aubrey ISD’s maintenance director and said it has been a goal of his to combine his experience in law enforcement with his work for the school district.

Massengale graduated from the North Central Texas Council of Governments Regional Police Academy in Arlington in 2003. From November 2003 to January 2005, he worked with the Oak Point Police Department where he held police, firefighter and emergency medical service certifications, he said. According to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement documents, prior to joining the Oak Point police, he served 10 months as a jailer with the Denton County Sheriff’s Office.

The Aubrey ISD Police Department was activated Sept. 16, after completing the application process, according to a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement official.

Jurisdiction for the department encompasses areas of Aubrey, Krugerville, Cross Roads, Providence Village and Denton County and all property outside district boundaries that is owned, leased, rented or under the control of Aubrey ISD. The police department’s office will be inside Aubrey High School.

The Aubrey school district may be one of the first districts to launch a police force, but it is not alone in pursuing the idea. Kevin Faciane, Argyle school board president, told us recently that trustees could be prepared to consider hiring a district police chief as early as Monday.

In August, the school board unanimously passed a resolution to establish a district police department. Officials have said the establishment of the department allows for jurisdiction in all areas of the district’s 48 square miles.

We wish these districts well as they get their new police departments up and running, and we imagine that other districts in the area will be watching closely to see how their plans work out.

It’s not easy being one of the first to try something new, and school officials deserve a lot of credit for seeking more efficient ways to secure school campuses and make sure children are protected.

Those are goals we should all share.