The Allen ISD Service Center was filled on Monday with at least 100 law enforcement officials from over 20 North Texas agencies in the first Collin County Area School Safety Symposium, hosted by the Allen Police Department and Allen ISD.
The purpose of the event gave departments including Plano, Frisco and McKinney the chance to share their expertise in school campus safety, strengthening valuable partnerships between bordering communities.
“School districts in Collin County are all doing something to protect students, but we’re all doing different things,” Allen Police Deputy Chief Ken Myers said. “This event will help us learn from each other and work toward programs proven effective by our peers.”
The event began with an open forum, allowing schools and police departments to share information about current systems and upcoming initiatives. Attendees also heard from Lt. Richard Robinson of the Newtown Police Department in Connecticut.
At the center of the symposium was the of school resource officers (SROs), who serve on the front lines of school security through daily interaction with students.
Allen PD spokesman Sgt. Jon Felty said the idea for the symposium stemmed from new legislation in Texas that requires schools and police work together and for districts to implement a multihazard emergency operations plan and specific training for SROs. District employees, including substitute teachers, will also require training in emergency response.
“It’s new to a lot of school districts,” Felty said. “It’s not new to Allen. We’ve had school resource officers since 1995. We’ve done emergency planning for years, but you have to constantly evaluate, update when new buildings new schools come online. It’s a process, and so there’s even a federal legislature that is helping with the process and puts some structure to what the assessment should look like.”
Felty said another aspect of the cross-cooperation is identifying potential threats in a more timely manner, specifically when they start on social media.
“You have to figure out what school they are referring to or what school do they attend because oftentimes you don’t know that,” he said. “I don’t think there is an agency in Collin County that’s not in there, so it helps. … We may not know that kid because it may not be an AISD student, it may be a McKinney student or a Plano student or a Frisco student. So those are the kind of things that when you partner together you can do so much faster.”
Felty said these partnerships can also help officials make determinations on whether a student may need special attention based on separate offenses either at school or with the law.
“Because if you recall the shooter in Florida at Parkland. … The administration said, ‘Oh yeah, we dealt with him separately.’ Law enforcement said, ‘We dealt with him separately.’ We want to take the steps that if there is a student who is a potential threat that we deal with them practically before it becomes an incident where students get hurt or lose their lives,” he said.”
Felty said they hope to make the one-day symposium an annual event and continue to expand its reach.
“Anything we can do to keep our children safe, that’s what we’ll do,” he said.