Cities often play a role in helping secure schools by providing school resource officers (SROs), who act as both deterrent and responder in case of intrusion. Many school districts have these licensed, armed officers on high school and middle school campuses, but not at elementary schools.
The City of Southlake has provided SROs at the entire Carroll Independent School District (ISD), including elementary schools, since the 2013-2014 school year. The plan was implemented following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
The school resource officers are paid through the city’s 1/8th cent crime control and prevention sales tax.
“We are proud to use our resources and our money to provide school safety. We believe it is our fundamental duty to protect our youngest residents while they learn,” Mayor John Huffman emphasized in an interview with The Texan.
Huffman explained that the officers are licensed, full-time employees of the City of Southlake. In addition to their required training as a Texas law enforcement officer, they also have specialized training related to serving at a school.
The officers often facilitate relationships with students who recognize them when they are out and about in the community, he added.
Huffman believes having armed, highly-trained SROs on campus provides peace of mind. Additionally, he is convening a school safety committee with city and school officials to evaluate and assess current measures and to see if there is any way the city can help enhance school security before the next school year begins.
“To be clear, Carroll ISD’s current school safety practices are robust and strong, and Southlake’s SRO program is a model for the nation. But if there is something else we can do as a city to support CISD’s mission to maintain absolute safety in the school environment, we will,” he stated.
Huffman acknowledges that Carroll ISD and Southlake are in a unique position, having nearly perfectly overlapping boundaries of the school district and city. That is not the case for other cities.
However, Huffman still encourages other cities to consider taking on this role of providing SROs to school districts as far as they are able.
Newly elected Colleyville Mayor Bobby Lindamood is willing and eager to help the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) by providing school resource officers.
According to a letter by GCISD Superintendent Dr. Robin Ryan posted on Facebook, the district does not currently have school resource officers at its elementary schools.
“We will also be working with our cities to dialogue about the possibility of additional officers in our schools on a daily basis,” Ryan said in the letter.
Several questions need to be answered about funding and jurisdictional issues, Lindamood told The Texan, but he wants to be part of a team working with the school district to “get this accomplished.”
“It is very important that we are out front and ready to go, but people also need to know that this will cost something,” he added.
During its work session this week, Fort Worth, the largest city in Tarrant County, also discussed SROs in schools. Fort Worth overlaps with 13 different school districts, some of which contract with the city to provide SROs.
The Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) informed the council members that there are generally two SROs at high schools and one at middle schools, but that there are not currently any SROs at the elementary school campuses due to costs.
Council member Chris Nettles emphasized that the city “can’t allow money to be an issue when it comes to saving lives.” Several other council members agreed with him.
FWPD Chief Neil Noakes emphasized that safety is the department’s “number one priority,” and that it will reach out to all school districts within the city limits to discuss safety issues.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.