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'Hardening' Schools Won't Keep Kids Safe, Police Officials Tell Senators

Gabriel C. Pérez
Many of the recommendations Gov. Greg Abbott made after meetings on school safety included "hardening" schools.

A group of law enforcement officers told Texas senators today that they don't think the governor's plan to “harden” schools is the best way to keep students safe.

“Give us more campus officers,” Joe Curiel, police chief for San Antonio Independent School District Police Department, told the Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security.

The committee was set up after Gov. Greg Abbott released a plan for how to make Texas’ schools safer. The recommendations came from three days of roundtable discussions following the school shooting in Santa Fe.

Many of Abbott's suggestions had to do with what he called “hardening” schools, such as limiting entrances, installing metal detectors, increasing police presenceand training more teachers to carry guns.

Curiel said his district doesn’t use the marshal program, which arms teachers. Instead, officers focus on community policing: They get to know kids so they can identify when someone needs help.

Mike Matranga, executive director for security and school safety at Texas City ISD, said lawmakers talk about arming teachers "without giving any forethought about how this is going to affect people" or its effectiveness.

Metal detectors work only if people are coming in through one door, he said, but schools have multiple entries and monitoring those would be a logistical and financial burden.

"If I can't guarantee that what's on the other side of the metal detector is secure, what's the point of spending the money on the metal detectors?" Matranga said. “You can’t secure a school 100 percent, and I’m not afraid to say that.”

Matranga said he’d rather see the state invest in more law enforcement officers at schools.

The committee also heard from two architects who work primarily for school districts, designing buildings. They said it's difficult to retrofit an older school to include new security features.

The committee plans to meet again Tuesday, where the conversation will focus on the school marshal program.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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