School safety: La Vernia parents express concerns



KIM JOHNSON
La Vernia ISD Superintendent Hensley Cone and district Director of Safety and Security Mike Duffek hear from Jeff Freitag, the parent of two La Vernia ISD students, during a June 8 town-hall meeting on school safety in the La Vernia High School auditorium.

“We need a comprehensive approach,” Dean Ross said. “While the school district is doing what they’re doing, the community has a responsibility as well. Everybody in the community has a role in working with the school system and making this better.”

He was among a number of community members who shared concerns and comments June 8, at a town-hall meeting about school safety in the La Vernia Independent School District (ISD).

Superintendent Hensley Cone’s aim was to share an overview of the district’s safety and security programs currently in place, as well as gather input from district families on school safety.

After Dr. Mike Duffek, district director of safety and security, outlined the various programs La Vernia ISD already has in place, more than a dozen concerned parents and citizens aired their questions and concerns.

Control of access to the junior high and high schools was the prevailing concern of parents who attended the meeting.

“Coming from a [Austin area] school district that had very secure campuses to [La Vernia] was really eye-opening,” stated Jeff Freitag. “When my wife and I toured the middle school … just noticing that we were able to walk freely around campus … it was concerning to me.”

Sandra Garcia, whose son attends La Vernia Junior High School, had similar concerns. “I just walked into the cafeteria!” she shared. “[My kids] always felt safe at the primary school, but … at the junior high and high school, anyone can walk in.”

Cone and Duffek also heard questions ranging from La Vernia Police Department response times to specific concerns about protecting special-needs students and clearing primary school restrooms.

Other suggestions offered from citizens included:
•Volunteer parental patrols on campus
•Adding a mental health section to school registration forms
•Active shooter self-defense training for teachers.

“Nothing we do with safety and security in La Vernia ISD is taken lightly,” Cone said. “Decisions are not made by one person.

There is a whole group of people that meet every year, multiple times a year, to review the things we’re doing and make suggestions for changes. They’re constantly collaborating on the safety of our kids.”

Cone assured parents and citizens last week that he will be bringing all their concerns and input to the June 23 Summer La Vernia ISD Safety Community/Alliance meeting.


Current safety measures

Dr. Mike Duffek, La Vernia ISD director of safety and security, outlined measures already in place for the district, including:
•Guardian Program
•ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate)
•Safety monitors and school resource officers
•Regular staff training in emergency protocols
•Mobile apps, such as RAPTOR Technologies, a visitor management system; and the STAYALERT System, which allows students to privately report bullying and other concerns
•Partnerships with local law enforcement.
Learn more at www.lvisd.org/Domain/1109.