Senate Bill 11 required school districts to meet certain safety standards, but many of these concerns were already being addressed by Longview ISD. 

District seeks continued improvements for campuses

Tue Oct 1, 2019

u73Kqm.png“School safety is a constantly evolving goal,” said Assistant Superintendent of Administrative and Pupil Services Dennis Williams. “It’s a process of always seeking to improve our safety and security, while knowing that we will never arrive at perfection.”

Campus safety at Longview Independent School District is not “perfect,” Williams admits, “but I’m proud that we’ve come a very long way in a short amount of time.”

“When I first got here we had a few things in place, but not nearly enough,” he said, pointing to the old flip charts that campuses used to use for emergency situations. “You look at the flip charts and if there’s a bomb you do this evacuation. So we had all of these instructions at one time and that was pretty good but, to be honest, in an emergency you don’t exactly have time to stand around reading a flip chart trying to figure out what your students need to do.”

To that end, Williams swiftly instituted a number of plans and processes — collaborating with district departments and local officials — in order to maximize efficiency and secure Longview ISD facilities.
 

COMMUNICATION

Williams said a vital aspect of campus safety is “clear, concise, and immediate communication.” To achieve this goal, the district has worked to ensure two-way communication between district to campuses and parents as well as from parents to the campuses and district.

“For parents there are numerous resources available to stay informed about what is going on in the district and individual campuses,” he said. “Whether it’s our automated call system, district website, our various social media channels or the Let’s Talk app, there are a variety of ways our public can both stay informed as well as reach out to us for questions, concerns, or comment.”

Making sure “everyone is on the same page” is also important, Williams added.

“Now there are a shared set of basic safety protocols from campus to campus in order to avoid confusion,” he said. “Of course, there are some minor differences that take into consideration variances in facilities and student body, but the fundamentals are the same.”

For example, in the event that a campus “lockdown” or “lockout” is administered, Williams said parents will be informed of the situation via an automated call.

“A lockout is intended to protect students from threats or suspicious behavior located outside the building,” he said. “This allows the educational day to continue uninterrupted and with little to no student knowledge of events that are occurring.”

Williams said a “lockdown” is different because those are called when the danger is believed to be coming from inside their school.

“For obvious reasons a lockdown is more disruptive to our school schedule,” he said. “But in both instances district officials would be in regular contact with law enforcement throughout the incident, and we in turn would be keeping our community apprised of the situation.”
 

COMPLIANCE & LEGAL OBLIGATIONS

Senate Bill 11 required school districts to meet certain safety standards, but Williams said many of these concerns were already being addressed by the district.

“But those that weren’t already in place before are certainly being aggressively addressed now,” he said, adding that he applauds the legislature finally addressing the growing mental health issues many schools encounter.

“We are continuing to train staff, not only for how to handle these situations when they occur, but also for prevention in seeing the warning signs before incidents occur,” he said. “Not only for us, but something we need to share with parents so they can recognize the risk factors and the warning signs.”

LISD works with the Texas School Safety Center, Texas Education Agency and meets the Texas Education Code to ensure that the campuses are safe for students and staff. Every three years’ safety audits are conducted within the district.
 

EDUCATION & TRAINING

An important part of his philosophy of “always striving” for campus safety are regular training sessions both within the district as well as in partnership with area agencies, Williams said.

“We regularly meet and work with the Longview Police Department, Longview Fire Department, Gregg County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Association of School Boards, and the Texas School Safety Center, among others,” he said. “Since 2016 a wide variety of training and audits have taken place throughout the district including everything from train derailment plans to the disbursment of medications in the event of an area epidemic. Our hope is to leave no stone unturned with regard to the safety of our students and staff.”

Various teams have been created to allow campus staff to know how to deal with different situations that might arise, Williams said.

“A District Safety Team was established in 2016 and meets monthly to cover many facets of safety in the district. A Student Advisory Safety Council for each campus was also established in the 2018-2019 school year,” he said. “While, as always, there’s still much more work to be done, it’s very rewarding to see the impact these partnerships have made in creating a culture of safety consciousness throughout our district.”

Williams said the district leadership wants students to feel "a shared sense of stewardship with the staff, that they feel empowered enough to say: these are the rules, and everyone has to follow them in order to be safe."

“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” he added. 
 

DRILLS & PRACTICE

By dispensing with “flip charts” and streamlining safety processes, Williams said he hopes staff will be able to “act intuitively in crisis situations, but intuitively in the correct protocols.”

“Every campus is required to perform a number of drills during the year in order to ensure that both students and staff know recall what to do in the event of different circumstances,” he said. “Students and staff train for severe weather, lockouts, lockdowns, shelter-in-place and others.
By repeating the drills, Williams said, the hope is that students and faculty will already know what to do “instead of checking a chart for reference.”

Aiding first responders, the school district uses the terminology that is also used by police and firefighters. This cuts down on the possibility of confusion.

“So if we put a school into lockout, first responders know what a lockout is,” Williams said. “If we’re in a lockdown, first responders know that as well.”

 

Williams encourages anyone with additional questions about what Longview ISD is doing to ensure campus security to visit the LISD Safety Portal or call him at (903) 381-2200.