By BOBBY HORN JR.
The North Forest ISD has instituted a new series of security measures at Smiley High effective through the end of the school year following a threat of a weapon on campus.
According to district spokesperson Denise Walker, on April 26 the administration became aware of several rumors that there was a weapon on campus and that threats against the school had been made. Williams said that the campus was evacuated and that it was searched by Houston PD officers and bomb-sniffing dogs. No weapon was found.
During the evacuation, the district used their Connect Ed system. Walker said that this system automatically calls the contact number of each student and that within minutes up to 3,000 phone numbers can be called. This, she said, aided in clearing the school swiftly and safely.
Following the incident, the district began to make changes.
We take the safety of our students very seriously, Walker said With everything going on out there like the situation at Virginia Tech you cant be too careful.
When students returned to class the following Monday the changes were evident.
All students entering Smiley High now must go through a metal detector. This is not just at the beginning and end of the day, but throughout the day. Students may also only exit the building through the front doors. During the day faculty monitors are assigned to watch every other door on campus.
Students are also now prohibited from using their lockers or from bringing backpacks on campus.
In a letter to parents, Smiley Principal Erroll V. Garrett wrote that after school activities will also be cut back. Students will be asked to leave campus by 3:05, with all teachers and staff remaining on campus to ensure that the buildings are secure.
Parents we realize that no plan is perfect, Garrett wrote, But we think that these additional measures combined with the normal security practices that we have in place will provide a safe and productive environment for the remainder of the year.
The normal security practices that Garrett referred to in the letter include wearing of ID badges by all staff and students, the Raptor ISD system for all visitors, North Forest and Houston police officers and consistent campus supervision by staff and the use of two-way radios.
The Raptor ID system is a fairly recent innovation that has been adopted by several districts in the Houston area over the past couple of years. With the system, a visitors drivers license is scanned. The information is then linked to a central database of registered sex offenders. The database can also be adjusted so that if there is a person who has a retraining order against them or is in any other way legally prohibited from being on campus, there name can be added by the district to the no admittance list.
One a person is cleared by the system; an I.D. label is printed with the persons picture on it so that staff can identify them.
By BOBBY HORN JR.