The events of December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut have reminded us all of the vulnerability of our children and the people who care for and teach them. In the days since, we have all grieved for the loss of 26 unique individuals, made offerings of support to their families and started asking the tough questions that may never be answered. “Why?” “Could this tragedy have been prevented?” “Are we doing enough to protect our own kids?”
The loss of 20 small children and their educators has left many of us scared and angry and feeling the need to re-examine ways we protect what is most precious to us. We have all been asked what is being done in Southlake, and whether it is enough. Rest assured that every member of the City Council and Board of Trustees – as parents, grandparents and community leaders – have the same questions. We are interested in knowing more about our current efforts, as well as challenging ourselves to examine new strategies for the future.
In the tragedy’s immediate aftermath, Southlake’s Police Chief Steve Mylett and CISD Superintendent David Faltys came together to focus on the immediate need for increased visibility at local schools. Increased patrols were ordered to begin the following Monday, and to continue until school let out for the holiday break. Plans were made for additional security during school holiday parties, when extra visitors were expected. Chief Mylett personally met with elementary school principals to more fully understand their needs and to reassure them with descriptions of police activity.
The Chief and Superintendent were able to quickly mobilize because of cooperative preparation that had already taken place. Regular emergency planning occurs between our two organizations (as well as with our neighboring cities), but as recently as October, CISD and Southlake emergency personnel held a joint table top exercise focusing on an active shooter scenario. Both groups learned a great deal about our readiness, and have improved our response plans as a result of this effort. Just two weeks ago, Police Department employees completed active shooter training. These efforts, coupled with the existing police presence, security practices and policies at the schools, and the attentiveness of parents have kept our schools safer.
Without question, efforts must continue to enhance security at school campuses. To this end, we have convened a task force comprised of City Council representatives, CISD Board representatives, and law enforcement officers to discuss how we should move forward. Increased patrols, facility improvements, better policies and expanded parental involvement are some of the ideas that will be vetted. It is the hope of the Council and Board that through the work of the task force, the students who attend Carroll schools, and the families who call Southlake home will be confident that all of our schools have been and will remain safe places.
Working together to achieve short-term, as well as longer term goals, our plan is to develop new strategies that will address the challenges in a highly effective and sustainable way.
John Terrell, City of Southlake Mayor
Read Ballew, Carroll ISD School Board President