Reporting Mireya Villarreal
FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - In theory, having a security officer or monitor at every school sounds like a great idea; but public funding and budgets make that nearly impossible.
Recently, Fort Worth schools with fewer than 600 students were forced to get rid of officers and monitors. The change frustrated both parents and teachers.
In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, schools districts across the country started giving security a serious second look; so did parents, especially at one school in Fort Worth.
As soon as school lets out, Nora Harris is inside AM Pate Elementary picking up her kids.
“I don’t trust nothing around this school. It’s ridiculous,” Harris, an AM Pate parent, said. “We had a campus monitor, and they got rid of her.”
Harris isn’t sure when the district decided to get rid of this school’s security monitor. But she’s worried about the kids whose parents don’t have the luxury of picking up them up.
“It’s sad because I see some of these kids walking home. And there’s so much around here, you just would not believe,” Harris told us.
Fort Worth ISD refused to talk with us on camera about its policy to get rid of officers and monitors at schools with less than 600 students. While we confirmed there are 76 campuses with less than 600 students, the district wouldn’t tell us exactly how many have been affected by this rule. They did say they closely monitor each school for security threats. (Click here to download a complete list of FWISD schools and their enrollment numbers).
So, the I-Team took a closer look at AM Pate. Since 2010, Fort Worth Police have been called out here 59 times. Most were low-priority calls that never resulted in an investigation. But just across the street from the elementary school is an apartment complex that’s well known to police and parents. Since 2010, they’ve responded to the Weber Gardens 787 times. Those calls included eleven for shots fired, 89 for fighting or an assault and 161 domestic disturbance calls.
“We can’t always plan for every incident that’s going to occur at the school. But teachers and students just want to have a safe learning environment,” Stephen Poole pointed out.
Stephen Poole is the director of the United Educators Association, an organization that represents teachers across North Texas.
“School districts are having to get creative with the budgets that they have,” Poole noted. “We should set a priority on the safety of our schools. And most of our school districts have stepped up to that plate.”
And some districts in our area are doing exactly that. Arlington ISD plans to spend $224,000 on a new buzzer-camera system for all the district’s elementary schools.
Plano ISD has installed 4,400 security cameras with at least one at every one of its schools.
And Dallas ISD just approved a $4.5 million security upgrade that includes more cameras, peepholes for portable buildings, and a new buzzer-camera system for all elementary schools.
Fort Worth ISD recently announced a partnership with Fort Worth Police that will use their Citizens On Patrol (COP) volunteers inside elementary schools. That program will go into effect next school year.
Prior to the airing of this story, Fort Worth ISD Spokesperson, Clint Bond, sent us this statement regarding this policy and security:
“The Fort Worth Independent School District is committed to the safety and security of students, faculty, staff and visitors in its facilities. In order to support that commitment, the District urges all students, employees and parents to Know the Plan by regularly reviewing and practicing emergency mitigation/prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery procedures relevant to natural, technological and security hazards.
Fort Worth ISD’s Emergency Operations Plan has been developed using best security practices and with the cooperation of local government to address the four phases of emergency management—prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Everyone is a key part of our emergency response. If you Know the Plan and practice it with fidelity, you will be able to help school administrators with a primary responsibility of protecting lives and property.”