Mark Luera of Williamson County is a consultant working with school safety companies. In the following article, Mr. Luera discusses new safety protocols and advancements in school safety.
As America perseveres in the wake of a national tragedy, the focus is once again on the measures that are being instilled to keep our children safe in schools. Although a number of these advances have been in development for some time, it is in the country’s darkest times that they are being challenged.
State and local governments as well as national leaders are feeling the heat of angry citizens demanding that they vocalize their next steps. From funding, school uniform requirements to training protocols, the demand for security systems in American educational institutions is only increasing, says Mark Luera.
Although the tragic Robb Elementary School shooting took place more than a month ago, the air of Uvalde, Texas is still filled with community mourning and fear that, without action, it will It’s only a matter of time before something like this happens again, says Williamson County’s Mark Luera. With Leticia Garcia, 10, laid to rest earlier this week, this marks the end of funeral services for the victims.
There are calls for schools to hire training companies like ALICE come to institutions before the official start of the school year to teach faculty and staff the proper guidelines for handling active shooter situations. Older school children (16 to 18) are also thought to benefit from these exercises, says Mark Luera of Williamson County.
Some schools in Texas are already making distinct changes to their policies that will be implemented in the 2022-23 school year. Most notable is the requirement that all students upgrade to clear backpacksso that authorities and teachers can easily see if someone is carrying questionable products.
School security expenses
Mark Luera of Williamson County explains that earlier this year, Millcreek Township in Pennsylvania received a $500,000 grant under the Stop School Violence Act to improve safety in their schools. Funds can be used in conjunction with local law enforcement to lock down and secure their schools, as well as other deterrents.
Unfortunately, these funds must be requested and approval rates can vary. The sad reality is that in the time it takes for a district to receive the money it needs to protect school children, another tragic event can occur. It’s money all schools should have access to, says Williamson County’s Mark Luera.
In the south, there is controversy over the appropriate measures to secure school grounds. There are mentions of the Republican call to ‘toughen up’ schools by arming guards and tightening security measures, but the masses are expressing that this will do nothing but inhibit the environment in which people send their children.
Several news outlets are expressing their disgust at the “toughening up” of our educational institutions, saying schools like Robb Elementary were already “tough” and still falling victim to life-threatening circumstances. Instead of focusing on schools, society is asking lawmakers to push for tougher gun laws.
Williamson County’s Mark Luera says there is public outrage around how Uvalde Police Force handled the shooter, or rather, how they didn’t. Rumors began to swirl about Texas police forces falling short that day – from how they walked past the assailant to how they waited over 60 minutes to enter the school to confront the shooter.
Asked about their plans for dealing with school shootings in particular, Dr John Nicoletti, in a 2014 pamphlet, said “they were already there” – meaning schools had enough resources and the help from the police to ensure their safety. However, with 45 school shootings since this booklet was published, it is clear that the schools are in fact not there with the police force.
Police stations are beginning to revert to the importance of active fire drills. The Sarasota Police Department undergoes active fire drills as part of its annual SNAP assessment training. With cases of school shootings on the rise, these workouts are only getting more realistic and immersive. Other police stations are encouraged to follow suit, says Williamson County’s Mark Luera.
President Joe Biden signed the most sweeping gun control bill in 30 years into law on June 25, 2022 – which strengthens background checks on young gun buyers, calling on states to consider new closer to suspicious orders (large quantities of ammunition, high artillery weapons), and suspicious individuals.
Williamson County’s Mark Luera explains that this law also makes obsolete the “boyfriend” loophole, or the loophole that allows domestic abusers to buy guns (while only dating their future victim). With individuals with notable cases of violence to their credit, it is important to keep weapons out of their hands to prevent them from harming others, including those in schools. The bill also funds mental health programs, as well as other school safety initiatives.
The passage of this bill marks an important moment in history, but has it come too late? Only time will tell if these grants, protocols and dress codes will make a difference in reducing the number of lives lost in our nation’s school system, or if there are more powerful changes to be made to our legislation to prove the efficiency, says Mark Luera.