The newly appointed superintendent for the Dallas Independent School District recently addressed the measures and efforts being taken in an attempt to increase school security.
Stephanie Elizalde, Ed.D., delivered a press conference alongside leaders from the DISD Police Department, addressing the steps taken in hopes of ensuring student safety this school year.
The district’s new “Comprehensive Safety Plan” includes increased facility security measures, student “mental well-being programs,” training and safety awareness for all staff, and additional reporting resources.
Using taxpayer money from a 2020 bond, nearly $50 million will go to installing security cameras, almost $40 million will acquire new keyless entry access doors, and $5 million will be spent to install weapon detection devices.
Elizalde explained, “For educators, for parents, this is really a difficult time. Schools should be a place of joy. We should be talking about content and projects and recess.”
The district recognizes the realities of today, though, she said, adding, “It requires us to also talk about drills and practices, about things that we certainly were not talking about when I was in school.”
She appealed to the community to assist with and support efforts for better security, saying, “We all have to work together to make sure our schools continue to remain safe, so we’re not having a press conference about a tragedy that’s occurred in our schools. It will take all of us.”
Elizalde had previously stated that she does not consider armed guards at entrances, armed teachers, or active shooter drills to be “practical, long-term solutions,” as reported by The Dallas Express.
Nevertheless, the DISD Police Department comprises “more than 200 police officers, security officers, and administrative staff” assigned across the 228 schools in the district.
During the press conference, Chief of Police John Lawton detailed how the DISD Police Department is training to work in concert with other agencies to provide an effective and immediate response to potential incidents.
He explained, “Our partnerships are very important for us. … Not only through figuring out who’s going to be in charge and understanding protocols, but how we’re going to work together and communicate amongst each other.”
Highlighting the need for additional safety measures, DISD has experienced notable security threats over the past few years, including fights, shootings, and other instances where weapons were used. Other initiatives begun by DISD include requiring all sixth- to 12th-grade students to use clear or mesh backpacks.
Some people, however, worry that many of the steps taken by DISD fail to substantially increase the security of the students. For example, school security expert Michael Dorn suggested that clear backpacks “are a well-intended but relatively ineffective measure” as people could still use hollowed-out books or shirts to conceal weapons.
Also confronting DISD is the persistently poor performance of students in their schools. Based on a four-year longitudinal study, Dallas ISD has a high school graduation rate of 82.8% — significantly below the statewide average of 90.3%. With roughly 150,000 students overall and 40,000 high schoolers, an estimated 6,880 students will not receive their diplomas on time over the next four years.
Dallas students in a handful of schools with extended schedules began attending classes on August 1, and other district schools started on Monday, August 8.