By Erin Copeland
The May 18 Santa Fe high school shooting that left 10 people dead has local law enforcement agencies preparing in the event of a future attack on school grounds.
As of June 4, 45 school shootings have occurred on school grounds in America. Texas has faced five alone, leading to the creation of Gov. Gregg Abbott’s School Safety and Firearm Action Plan.
The University Police Department is tasked with preventing and responding to these incidents. Captain Rickey Lattie, UPD interim director, said all officers are trained at The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center on campus. It is the primary institute for active shooter training.
“We practice the ALERRT recommended avoid, deny, defend, which is first avoid contact and then deny access by of course locking down buildings, locking doors, things like that,” Lattie said. “As a last resort, defend yourself. That is actually our practice recommendation. It is a fairly in-depth training. Our officers are well equipped.”
Lattie said students play a large role in preventing these attacks. Once risks are identified, UPD’s team of faculty, staff, psychologists, doctors and police officers proactively work to stop problems before they occur.
“If you see behavior that’s concerning to you, one of the first things we ask you to do is call the police department and let us know,” Lattie said. “We’re going to look at the case you’ve forwarded to us and then we’ll usually make contact with them, find out if there’s anything going on that should be concerning, or if they need assistance or help.”
Andrew Fernandez, SMCISD’s executive director of communication and community relations, said their schools have several safety measures in place. These include drills hosted by the SMPD and faculty with an open-door policy. The district has social and emotional counselors at all campus locations. In addition, SMCISD schools only have one entry point into the main building of their campuses, which require each person to be buzzed in.
“I don’t think there’s a magical answer to why these situations are taking place or why they’re not taking place at certain districts,” Fernandez said. “All we can do is prepare for situations like this and have conversations with our students and make sure their needs are met from a teacher standpoint, a counselor standpoint, an administration (standpoint). That’s the ultimate goal: to make sure when they come to school every morning they feel safe.”
SMCISD partners with SMPD. Community Services Officer Sergeant Rich Mizanin said a step SMPD has taken is establishing that school resource officers maintain an active presence on campuses.
“The San Marcos police department had two full-time school resource officers trained through the National Association of School Resource Officers to deal with any type of incidents that could come up in a high school setting,” Mizanin said.
Another product of this partnership is mental health officers, which are available to aid in preventative measures once risks have been identified.
“If the school resource officers are referred to deal with a student, they’ll contact the mental health officers that we have here at the police department,” Mizanin said. “We currently have three full-time mental health officers whose only job is to deal with any type of mental health-related case.”
Suspicious behavior can be reported to SMPD at 512-753-2108.