Given the recent shooting incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, as well as the rise in frequency of these types of tragedies, parents need to know their children are safe as possible once they drop them off at school every day. As politicians continue debating and time keeps marching, reassurance is more necessary than ever. The reality is that just because we live in small communities in Archer County where “everyone knows your name”, we are no less vulnerable to the evils that exist.
As they say, the devil is in the details. It is not any different in the aftermath of such atrocities as the Florida shooting. How were the warning signs missed? What were his grievances? Were they sufficiently addressed? How was he treated by his guardians and fellow classmates? What really compelled him to do such a thing? Should greater attention have been paid to the multiple calls to police concerning the suspect? What more could the school officials have done to prevent this from happening? Why did the FBI let him slip through the cracks? We cannot go back and change what happened, but we cannot stand still and do nothing in response.
After reaching out to the administration of each of the three independent school districts in Archer County, it is clear the safety and well-being of the students are primary objectives. Each of them responded openly and honestly about their concerns and the added measures they are putting in place to ensure the safety of students and staff.
Dr. Kevin Dyes, Superintendent of Holliday ISD said, “Anytime there is an incident, it heightens concerns about school safety. We review our procedures and are more vigilant with people in and around campus.”
Lonnie Hise, Superintendent of Windthorst ISD added, “Events like this put people on alert, and I don’t blame them. There have been several conversations at the three campuses about the issue of someone coming into the buildings. This also includes people attempting to take children.”
All three ISDs have implemented extra safety precautions over the past few years. Some of these include controlled entry or key-card entry in doorways, increased camera surveillance, and increased active shooter and emergency drills. In Archer City with the help of the Archer City Police Department, Archer City ISD staff, and local clergy, there have been multiple assemblies addressing different issues with the student body, such as the repercussions of bullying and the consequences of poor social media habits. Archer City ISD has also implemented the Guardian Program which authorizes employees who have completed extensive training to carry firearms on campus.
“We have not put signs up stating that we have armed personnel, but we do want the public to be informed,” stated Archer City ISD Superintendent, C.D. Knobloch.
Regarding the presence of firearms on campus, Dyes responded, “I think it is a community and board decision that adds another layer of security to an overall campus safety plan.”
Windthorst ISD is researching the issue and the school board may vote on the measure at a later time, according to Hise.
When asked about an avenue for students and others to report incidents of bullying, abuse, or suspected safety threats, each of the administrations confirmed that protocols were established on their campuses. Of course, all students are encouraged to voice any safety concerns to the principals or teachers. Holliday also has an anonymous tip line that is routed directly to law is routed directly to law enforcement. Windthorst has a link on their website that allows students to report bullying as well.
Considering the ongoing confusion about the response by the law enforcement in Parkland, Florida, it is imperative for the citizens of Archer County to have confidence in its own local law enforcement. Archer City and Holliday both have city police departments and are not solely dependent on the Archer County Sheriff’s Department, in the event of an active shooter or other threatening situation.
Lonnie Hise commented, “I am concerned about the response time of the authorities. This is not because they are doing something wrong, but simply a timing issue. We do not have a Windthorst police department, so we have to depend on the Sheriff’s Office and constable for this type of situation. They are great, but they may be on the other side of the county when we make the call.”
Sheriff Staci Beesinger added, “Our officers cover all 936 square miles of Archer County. Ordinarily we have 2-3 officers on duty at any given time during the day. Of course, in the event of a possible mass-casualty situation or other major emergency, all officers would be called out immediately. The considerable size of Archer County and the manpower available at a moment’s notice is why it is absolutely vital that an open and clear line of communication is continuously utilized between all school officials and law enforcement.”
All things considered, parents should feel more at ease about the safety of their children in Archer County schools. Administrators and staff are not merely talking about what they could do, they are actively taking precautions to prevent or diffuse any threatening situation that could arise. Just as parents are responsible for the overall welfare of their children, the responsibility of the faculty and staff in our schools is multi-faceted. They must teach, nurture, as well as protect to the best of their ability. The enormity of this task should never be underestimated. If you have concerns, let them know. Contact your school superintendent or address your school board. We must all work together to keep our children safe. It really does take a village to raise a child.