FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas – As students are preparing to return to school this upcoming year, Fort Bend County has ramped up its safety and security procedures to ensure protection across area campuses.
On Tuesday, state legislators, and school and county officials joined with law enforcement to outline their plans to the public.
The meeting was held at the Stafford Municipal School District Leonard Scarcella Administration Building. FBCSO and ISD police department officials gave a general overview of the latest ways to assess and deal with active-shooter threats and incidents and handle mental health concerns.
They were clear, they are doing everything they can to prevent another Uvalde tragedy, adding that Fort Bend County is “ahead of the game.”
“I have held many titles over the years and the most important title to me is ‘Dad,’” Texas Rep. Jacey Jetton said. “Just like everyone else, after Uvalde, there are concerns that come up with whether or not our children are going to be in a safe place when they are at school and are they going to come home safely.”
Jetton said after reading the House Committee report on Uvalde, officials recognize that policies and procedures without follow-through “mean nothing.”
“We have to go and lock our doors, we have to make sure the safety latches are in place and when law enforcement shows up to the scene, there is a commander and everybody understands their role and responsibility in neutralizing the threat,” Jetton said.
Jetton explained, on the State level, several things have now occurred:
- $105 million has been put in place for school safety and mental health initiatives.
- The Texas Education Agency has been directed to put a chief of school safety and security in place.
- Governor Greg Abbott has directed a School Safety Center to immediately ensure all Texas schools are following all proper procedures to maximize school safety.
- Texas State University’s nationally recognized advanced law enforcement rapid response training program has been provided to all school districts across the state, prioritizing school-based law enforcement.
Jetton said, one of the key things, is recognizing and responding properly to incidents of bullying, which can save lives.
“The Secret Service, in their analysis of targeted school threats, outline that most of the attackers were bullied and bullied in open,” Jetton said. “People knew that this was happening. Those same attackers also communicated their intentions to attack. It is important for us to pay attention and be vigilant in our communities to ensure that we are reporting those threats.”'
He further explained that the Texas Department of Public Safety, TEA and Texas Higher Education coordinating boards have been directed to expand and accelerate their efforts to promote the ability to report suspicious activity known to students, staff and families through the “I Watch” Texas reporting system, which ensures that when a threat is found, action can be taken.
Fort Bend County Sheriff Ed Fagan said today’s students are not like the ones in the past.
“We have to be proactive in this to protect our children. If you see something, say something,” Fagan said. “Teachers, pay attention to your students. Understand when they are being bullied. It’s not like when we were growing up saying ‘just take it.’ No, they just don’t take it anymore. We have to step in to take action. We are working together hand-in-hand to protect our children. This is a multiplied force, not just an ISD.”
Fagan, along with fellow law enforcement officials at the news conference, explained various enhanced procedures that will be enforced. Those procedures include daily tests of door locks and vestibules, patrol divisions in regular rotations visiting schools and other monitoring and check-in methods.
“School shooters look for soft targets. I don’t want our school to be a soft target,” Fagan said.
He also spoke about the actions required of the law enforcement officers who respond to scenes.
“You don’t wait you go in, help is coming, that is what you signed up for,” he said.
Texas Rep. Ron Reynolds said he believes there should be some “common sense” gun reforms that don’t infringe upon Second Amendment rights, in addition to universal background checks, raising the age limit to purchase assault rifles and Red Flag laws.
“Mistakes happen, unfortunately, but these mistakes led to additional deaths [in Uvalde] so we are being proactive in Fort Bend County. God forbid, a mass shooter attempts to enter a school, there are contingency plans to make sure that person is apprehended timely and efficiently,” Reynolds said. “Right now, we can’t wait, school is starting. August 10 is just around the corner.”
Reynolds explained when tragedy strikes, it is not about race, color, wealth or political affiliation.
“This is the model not just for Fort Bend, but for America in terms of working together across the aisle,” Reynolds said. “I have never seen a mass shooting bullet that identified democrats or republicans. This is something that impacts all of us - Black, white, Hispanic, Asian - no matter what your socio-economic status is, it doesn’t discriminate. This is an issue that we must tackle head-on and not just with hopes and prayers.”