The Bellville ISD Safety Committee brought local leaders, teachers and Law Enforcement together to discuss the safety of the students. The district released the following document: “Efforts to Keep Students and Staff Safe in Bellville ISD” written by Superintendent Dr. Nicole Poenitzsch. The text of which can be downloaded HERE as well as read below:
On May 25, 2022 I was hesitant to send my children to school. My hesitancy was not rational or reflective of where we are or those I trust to keep my children safe in school each day, it was the heart of a mom fearful and protective of her babies at such a time as this. That morning, I told my kids that I wanted to pray with them, to pray for their safety and pray for the families and community who had lost their children in Uvalde the day before.
My children asked me what happened, and I shared the sad news. My youngest two children asked, “Do they not have officers at their schools? Officer Burton and Officer Bellville keep us safe.” It reassured me that the presence of officers on our campuses made my children feel safe. I asked them if they knew what to do if a bad person ever came on their campuses and each of them began to describe what they’ve practiced. One shared that they all dump their desks over to hide and grab things to throw and that he gets to throw the glass cup off the teacher’s desk “because he has the best arm”. My other son told me that they close the curtains, turn off the lights, flip the desk, and the teacher opens the back window for them to crawl out to escape if it’s safe for them to get away. Again, I felt some reassurance that they seemed to feel prepared to respond in a dangerous situation.
After moving past my moment of hesitancy, I reached out to our Chief Operations Officer and Chief Smalley to see about having additional officers present and making rounds on our campuses for the final two days of the school year – an idea which both shared and had already taken steps to put in place.
Wednesday was a wonderful day of fun, learning, and celebrations in BISD; but that night, as I poured through articles being released with additional details on the tragedy in Uvalde, I laid awake tearful and staring at the ceiling feeling unsettled by the heaviness of the responsibility of keeping students and staff safe, and fearing the factors that are beyond our control. I questioned if we should cancel school on Thursday. Doing so for no reason would create undue fear; not doing so and experiencing a tragic event seemed like an unnecessary risk……. With a prayer and additional precautions taken by our officers and administrators, we went to school and had a successful last day of school. The same fears arose again with the preparations for our 2022 Graduation ceremony, and again BISD experienced a safe and beautiful celebration of our students and their accomplishments.
We take the safety and security of our students and staff with the most elevated level of importance. BISD has multiple measures in place to create barriers and equip students and staff to the greatest extent possible with skills, knowledge, and resources to keep themselves safe if a bad situation were to occur; But when discussing provisions for protecting the precious lives of those in our schools, we know that nothing we do is ever enough. We will always be compelled to reflect, learn from others, and work to continuously improve our abilities to provide for the safety of those who serve and are served on our campuses.
Leaders, teachers, board members, and officers met this month to reflect on lessons learned, assess our practices and procedures, and prioritize steps we can take to increase the effectiveness of our measures. Overall our conversations revealed five trains of thought:
The first step is to promote the safety and well-being of our children and employees is to ensure each feels seen and valued. We believe that individuals who feel seen, loved, and safe do not plot harm against others. Parents, love on your children. Teachers, love on your children. Children, be kind and love one another.
The next step to promoting the safety and well-being of our children and employees is to ensure that every single individual in our Brahma Family recognizes warning signs and takes action to report even the slightest concerns. This includes on-going communication between campus administrators and SRO’s relative to potential threats, and ongoing conversations with our students and staff about warning signs and how to report them.
The district will also be taking steps to connect access to our campus security cameras with local law enforcement agencies, transitioning to a school-wide alert system through our new phone lines (or other alert system), and requiring all students and staff to wear school-issued ID badges with quick reference to the StayAlert reporting system upon return in the 2022-2023 school year.
The next measures are necessary when the first two measures have failed.
Preventative measures to provide physical security on our campuses include but are not limited to the presence of School Resource Officers (SRO’s) on our campuses, secure points of entry, regular perimeter patrols, and our camera systems.
BISD is pursuing enhancements to these barriers by considering the sustainability of increasing the number of SRO’s serving daily in BISD, facilities enhancements at each of our campuses, creating mobile access to our cameras for administrators, SRO’s, and local law enforcement agencies, and equipping all teachers with additional counter attack resources such pepper/wasp/bear spray. BISD is also pursuing the purchase of shields and breaching tools at each campus.
BISD is additionally researching resources and associated costs with additional physical deterrents including but not limited to fencing, alarm systems at every access point on every campus, additional and upgraded cameras, and a multitude of other preventative measures that can serve as barriers to keep our schools safe. The measures available to us require financial allocations. The district is in the process of seeking out additional funding sources and prioritizing what we can in our local budget. We are also considering the need to engage the support of our community to generate additional funding for our operational budget to support the ongoing costs associated with increased security measures.
Additionally, BISD has consulted with districts who implement the Guardian Program which allows designated staff members who have volunteered, passed background checks and psychological screenings, completed required training, and been selected to carry legally concealed firearms. The Board of Trustees will take this recommendation from the BISD administrators and collaborating law enforcement officers under advisement at their July 2022 Board Meeting.
Preparation and training for students and staff to respond in the event of a crisis situation has been an ongoing process in BISD and we will continue and enhance these efforts with more frequent drills with students, staff, and substitutes including processes for counter attacks, locking down, and evacuating. We will also continue to conduct “stop-the-bleed” training and training for our administrators, SRO’s, and select staff for responsive actions during crisis command.
Plans for crisis management in the aftermath of a situation occurring include awareness of the district’s response and communication plan. It is critical that all parents and employees have up-to-date contact information in our Ascender portal to be eligible to receive communications from the District. The District will rely on phone messaging through the SchoolMessenger system to communicate necessary information if an incident were to occur.
It is important that parents understand that their role is to receive the information shared by the district and respond accordingly. Flooding phone lines or our campus sites may disrupt the ability of first responders and school personnel to have the expedient access needed in crisis situations. The District has three pre-planned sites for reunification following crisis situations. The specific sites are intentionally not shared in advance to ensure that we are not creating a secondary target site and so that the actual site selected is responsive to the specific conditions of the situation.
It is critical that our parents do their part in our plan by ensuring the district has accurate contact information on file and following the guidance given to allow optimal responsive measures by all involved if a situation were to occur at one of our schools.
We value the lives of our students and staff beyond what words can convey. We take the responsibility for providing safe and secure conditions for our students and staff with the utmost importance and will continue to partner with the dedicated officers who serve and support our schools and community. We know that our employees will do everything possible to protect our children and with preparation and prayer we believe we can continue to be safe and successful in Bellville ISD.
If you have questions, comments, or concerns you’d like to share in response to the information presented here regarding Bellville ISD’s efforts to provide for the safety and well-being of the students and staff in BISD please reach out to Dr. Poenitzsch at (979) 885-3315 or [email protected].
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