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Dayton ISD: ‘No threats,’ just proactive response

May 25, 2018 GMT

Rumormongering and unconfirmed reports of threats on the campuses of Dayton ISD were dismissed by school officials late Wednesday, May 23, as just that — rumors.

“There have not been any threats,” said Dr. Jessica Johnson, superintendent of DISD.

A Saturday afternoon post to the Dayton ISD and campus websites was prompted by district officials regarding the terrible shooting in Santa Fe as they considered tightening security for the remainder of the school year.

The post read:

“Dayton ISD would like to express our thoughts and condolences for the Santa Fe Independent School District and its community.

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Dayton ISD has not received any threats but with the tragic events that have taken place in schools across the country, Dayton ISD is taking a proactive stance and will have an additional police presence on all campuses.

Again, no threats have been made but as a precautionary measure, additional law enforcement from Harris County Precinct 3, along with Dayton Police Department, will be monitoring all Dayton ISD campuses. Student and staff safety is always our utmost concern.”

Johnson said the district wants to be aggressive with security on all their campuses.

“We have partnered with Constable Robby Thornton’s office and Dayton PD to have more officers on our campuses,” Johnson explained.

Dayton is among a growing list of districts taking measures to tighten their security including Aldine, Alief, Alvin, Bay City, Clear Creek, Cy-Fair, Fort Bend, HISD, Katy, Klein, Pasadena, Pearland, Splendora, Spring, Spring Branch, Sweeny, Texas City, Tomball, and Van Vleck ISDs.

On Monday morning, a student at Hargrave High School brought a weapon in his backpack with the intention to harm himself. The same day, law enforcement was investigating an alleged shooting threat found written on a bathroom wall at Crosby High School. The threat alleged a shooting would happen on the campus May 30.

The schools are neighbors to Dayton and is the kind of incident that is frightening for parents.

In addition to an increased law enforcement presence, students at Dayton High School will not be allowed to bring backpacks or large purses for the remainder of the school year. A letter was sent out to parents regarding the new request.

Students who have been sensitive to the shooting in Santa Fe or may have connections are also being attended.

“As with any incidents, we always have additional or available counselors ready to assist with both students and staff,” Johnson said.

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The 2014 bond passed by the community has provided additional help for each school for increased security measures.

“Thanks to the bond, we have been able to install cameras at all campuses, additional technology such as card readers that limits the entrance to all campuses via the vestibules, and other upgrades to new and existing facilities,” the superintendent said.

Last spring, the district also increased the number of full-time officers on campuses throughout the district.

“I appreciate the partnerships that we have with our local law enforcement agencies, both city and county. Our officers have gone through several active shooter trainings this year with another one planned for this summer,” she said.

All campus and district administrators went through intruder training with Dayton PD earlier this spring. Hector Herrera, the assistant superintendent of support services, leads the district’s safety approach and, according to Johnson, has attended numerous conferences, regional meetings, and has regular meetings with various law enforcement agencies throughout the school year.

Various social media posts are asking parents to attend the next school board meeting to demand tighter security and Johnson welcomes the input.

“There is a lot of discussions going on right now at various levels to continue to increase the safety of our children and staff,” she said.

Administrators are carefully watching the State’s round-table meetings hosted by Gov. Greg Abbott in Austin and have an interest in the results and potential legislation that may come out of those meetings.

“We will continue to encourage and listen to all stakeholders and make the best choices for our district,” she said.

Since 2014, the district has implemented new security measures with best practices, policies, and procedures. One change Johnson said would be made next year was the use of clear or mesh backpacks, especially at the secondary levels. Other security improvements for next year are in planning stages.

Johnson also asked for the public’s help in providing information regarding threats to student and staff safety.

“Most threatening statements are made on social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram,” she said. “If you see or hear any suspicious activity on social media, then please alert our administrators.”

Those reports allow district officials and law enforcement to immediately investigate.

“We take all threats seriously,” she reiterated.

Johnson asked for patience and understanding from parents and the community as they continue to build a comprehensive approach to school security.

“It is unfortunate that we live in a world today that we have to consider the unthinkable, but it is the reality we live in. We are committed to making each and every student, staff member, and parent feel safe in our schools, and with your help, we can make that possible,” the superintendent said.

dtaylor@hcnonline.com