Safety on top of minds for North Texas school districts after recent mass shootings

As students start to head back to school across North Texas, safety is top of mind with the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.

The Dallas ISD police chief tried to calm concerns on Monday as he talked to a room filled with some parents and school administrators.

The police chief spoke at a school shooter safety forum put on by the Dallas Bar Association. The event was organized weeks before these recent mass shootings, but ended up being a big part of the conversation.

The recent back-to-back mass shootings fueled part of the conversation at a luncheon in Dallas on Monday.

“We’re in a strange new reality,” the moderator told the crowd. “At least, that’s how a lot of folks are interpreting it.”

Dallas ISD Acting Police Chief John Lawton and Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Sherry Christian were part of the panel of speakers at the forum entitled “School Shooter Safety: what you need to know to keep your kids safe.”

“We’re not naïve,” Christian said. “We have had guns in our schools.”

“Most active shooter threats, that’s what you want. You want to get away from the threat,” Lawton said.

The DISD police chief says there are 128 police officers and 50 security guards patrolling 230 schools in the district. He says DISD PD has a radio channel where it can community directly with Dallas PD in case of a mass shooting.

“The main thing is that we talk about it now,” Lawton said. “So that way, when a situation happens, people know how to respond.”

In May, DISD PD took part in a drill with Dallas Fire-Rescue to practice jointly responding to a mass shooting at a school.

“Once we secure an area, they can come in behind us and start evacuating and treating people who may have been injured,” Lawton said.

Southlake police and fire departments conducted similar training on Monday by hosting a mock drill at Carroll ISD. Teachers there took part in the exercise.

Chief Lawton says the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton are a reminder that school districts need to be ready to act.

“Every time we have one of these situations, we learn from it,” he said. “It gives us a little bit more intelligence and a little bit more information to know what to look for in case it ever happens again.”

Dallas ISD says it's also asking students to be more vigilant with its ‘See Something. Say Something. Do Something’ initiative. They're also holding students accountable who post threats on social media, even if it was intended as a joke.