Let’s keep kids safe as they head back to school
Our children are our most precious asset, and their safety is of paramount importance to the future of our state and country. Schools are a place for young minds to grow, explore and learn, so they may become knowledgeable and confident citizens who will make our world a better place.
Too often in recent years, schools have become a place where tragedy has unfolded. As we begin a new school year, the issue of school safety looms in the minds of kids, parents and teachers alike. I assure you that it is also on the forefront of the mind of every Texas peace officer, and that they fully understand they must immediately confront and neutralize all threats to our children, regardless of the risk to themselves – because every second matters.
We will never forget the tragedy that took place at Santa Fe High School in May, when multiple students were injured and 10 innocent lives were lost. Certainly the rapid and heroic response by Santa Fe Independent School District officers with immediate support by Santa Fe police officers, Galveston County sheriff deputies and DPS troopers saved lives that day; yet, tragically it did not prevent a well-armed and determined individual from taking the lives of 10 students and teachers. An effective response by law enforcement and emergency medical personnel is vital in protecting our children from harm; however, it is not enough.
We must do all that we can to deter, detect and prevent future attacks on our schools and the Texas law enforcement community and education community have joined together to increase the safety of Texas students as they return to the classroom this school year. For instance, you should expect see an enhancement of protective measures, including an increase in law enforcement presence on school campuses and at school events.
To detect and prevent attacks before lives are lost requires an informed and engaged public willing to report threats and suspicious behavior.
Gov. Greg Abbott directed DPS to work with its law enforcement partners and the education community to establish a mobile app to unify the disparate reporting of suspicious activity and threats to school safety across all jurisdictions to increase the likelihood that the threats are detected and acted upon before there is a tragedy.
The new iWatchTexas app is available now to those with an iPhone or Android device. It’s free and easy to download and use, and it allows you to submit a report confidentially and quickly. You can also report suspicious activity online or by calling 1-844-643-2251. Remember, if it is an emergency, call 911. Often times, preparations for an attack are detected but not reported. You play a critical role in thwarting these tragedies.
There is nothing more evil than a mass attack on our children. If you hear it or see it – speak it. By simply reporting the suspicious activity you observe, you may end up saving the lives of our students and their teachers.
Steven McCraw is director of the Texas Department of Public Safety