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School Threats: A look at how districts monitor students, notify parents

After a 12-year-old girl was allegedly raped at Parkland Middle School, many parents were left asking questions about how the school was communicating with them. Parents of children who attend Parkland Middle School were complaining they were not informed of any type of security threat at the school.

The ABC-7 I-team decided to investigate how security threats are handled and the process the school districts follow when communicating those threats to parents. ABC-7 visited the Ysleta Independent School District and the Socorro Independent School District to learn how the districts alert parents about a threat or an act of violence on a campus.

Irene Ahumada Medlin, who is the Principal of Ramona Elementary, told ABC-7 “security is our number one priority here.”

Ramona Elementary is part of the Ysleta ISD. Ahumada Medlin said they rely on prevention methods such as security cameras, locked doors and building check-in systems.

They scan IDs after people are admitted through the front door to make sure there is nothing that raises a red flag for safety related to that person’s history.

Pat O’Neill, the Chief of Operations at YISD, said they also have security guards in place. “At each one of our high school campuses, we have security officers and we also have an SRO, now if it’s a 911 situation, then we’re contacting the police,” O’Neill said.

Other school districts, like Socorro ISD, have their own Police Departments. At the SISD Communications Center, they have 42 monitors, with more than 2,000 cameras overseeing the 47 schools in their district.

Jose Castorena, the SISD Police Chief, said security at schools is also a priority, saying “we have security personal stationed at all of our campuses, all 47, high schools have three security have three assigned, middle schools and elementary’s have one.”

Castorena said they also inform parents of any situation or security threat as quickly as possible.

“We send out to parents what we are doing about it what we found, sometimes we can’t be very specific for the sake of the confidentiality portion,” Castorena said, “but we are very thorough on what we’re doing and how we’re handling it.”

Castorena told ABC-7 they use social media, the SISD mobile app and a call out system to notify parents of any type of security threat.

In the case of the reported rape at Parkland Middle school, it’s possible, according to O’neill, the district was not allowed to give any information out.

“We’re gonna call out 99 to 100 percent of the time. The only time when we wouldn’t do a call out is when we’ve been instructed by a local law enforcement agency not to call out,” O’Neill said.

Both districts said parents have a responsibility to keep the school informed on how to get in touch with them.

Ismael Castro, the Emergency Operations Plan Manager at SISD, said “it’s imperative that they have all their information up to date at the campus.”

KVIA ABC-7

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