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School Security Skyrockets

Manson spearheads enhanced efforts to protect students, faculty

Sophomore+Beth+Mueller+checks+in+through+the+high+school+front+office.++Following+security+protocols%2C+receptionist+Sherri+Beavers+asked+Mueller+through+a+microphone+%E2%80%9CGood+morning.++How+can+we+help+you+today%3F%E2%80%9D+before+letting+her+in.++
Sophomore Beth Mueller checks in through the high school front office.  Following security protocols, receptionist Sherri Beavers asked Mueller through a microphone “Good morning.  How can we help you today?” before letting her in.

Sophomore Beth Mueller checks in through the high school front office. Following security protocols, receptionist Sherri Beavers asked Mueller through a microphone “Good morning. How can we help you today?” before letting her in.

James Carroll

James Carroll

Sophomore Beth Mueller checks in through the high school front office. Following security protocols, receptionist Sherri Beavers asked Mueller through a microphone “Good morning. How can we help you today?” before letting her in.

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Walking into a Celina ISD school, even with the most innocent of intentions, just got more difficult.

In an attempt to get past the “it could never happen here” mentality, the district implemented stricter safety standards and protocols, including no propped doors, a tighter entrance policy across all of its campuses, a new district-wide lockdown system, and emergency buttons in the new high school wing to prevent tragedies.

“That’s been an initiative that we started this year and it’s basically [procedures] that we’ve already should’ve been doing,” Celina ISD police chief Bobby Manson said. “All the [guidelines on the safety posters near the front offices of each school] are things that we have over the last five years documented that we should be doing.”

Photo by James Carroll – A new safety poster hangs in the Celina High School foyer as a reminder of the district’s commitment to protecting students. Celina ISD police chief Bobby Manson hung the poster this summer to serve as a visual symbol of district expectations for security protocols. “Let’s be very transparent to people about what our expectations are to ourselves about how we’re going to keep your kids safe when they’re at school,” Manson said. “I said [to myself] ‘well, how about we give the general public something they can see and something that’s tangible to them that they can understand that describes what we’re going to do to keep their kids safe while they’re here.’”

Manson traveled to Corpus Christi over the summer to attend his yearly training, which this year emphasized school shootings. There, numerous vendors pushed security gadgets, including one item that indicates from where the shots came.

“I was talking to the other people and I was listening to these conferences and seminars and I was going ‘man, I wish I had a million dollars to spend to do all of this stuff,’” Manson said. “Then all of a sudden it just hit me: A million dollars wouldn’t do me any good because we’re leaving the doors open. You can put in metal detectors and all of this other stuff, but if people are propping doors open, what difference is it to those coming in through the door that’s propped open?”

Manson scheduled several meetings with superintendent Rick DeMasters over the summer to discuss ways to improve the safety across the district.

I [told DeMasters] ‘You know, I can’t be the only person in our school district of almost 3,000 kids and almost 300 employees that’s worried about whether the doors are propped.”

— BOBBY MANSON, Celina ISD Police Chief

“I [told DeMasters] ‘You know, I can’t be the only person in our school district of almost 3,000 kids and almost 300 employees that’s worried about whether the doors are propped,’” Manson said. “Everybody is going to have to make this their job, including the teachers and including the students and everybody.”

In addition to propping doors, the district has strayed away from simply allowing people into the front office.

“One of the things that you’ll notice that’s a change this year is that we no longer, when someone comes to the door at any of our campuses, just automatically buzz them in,” high school principal David Wilson said. “When people come to the door at the high school now, our receptionist and our front office people will ask them ‘Good morning, how can we help you today.’ We are doing that so that we can make sure that we understand who these people are, why they’re here, and what these people’s purpose is for being here so we can have a better understanding of who’s coming into this building and why.”

The district also added a new way to report suspicious activity on any campus by calling in a tip to the phone number located on the safety poster by the front office. Emergency buttons in the new high school wing allow quick notification to office staff of a serious situation without generating a lockdown, while a new computer system grants all administration the ability to lockdown the district with their cell phone.

“All of the campuses are on this computerized system and it gives me the ability to lockdown a campus or put it in any type of emergency mode from my cell phone or from my computer in my police car,” Manson said. “Administrators can do it from a cell phone or their computers in their office.”

Visitors who get buzzed in must receive dated school badges to permit them access to the school for that day.

“I think the biggest thing is being consistent across all of our campuses,” Wilson said. “Doing the same things, making sure our guests have guest badges on, making sure people check in with their I.D. so we can run them through our system because our system checks these people before they go into our buildings.”

This also applies to students who aren’t on their home campus. When senior Akash Chhabra tried to enter Celina Junior High to attend his private trombone lesson, the front office staff began the new vetting process.

“As a Celina ISD student, I felt kind of alienated because even though I showed them a student I.D. card and told them my student I.D. number, I still had to show them my official drivers license,” Chhabra said. “I couldn’t just use my simple school I.D. to get in.”

The district administration expects both staff and students to meet the new safety standards, with punishments for student violations including I.S.S. and negative marks on their discipline record. Staff members cannot let students inside the building after 8:15 a.m., and if caught opening or propping doors, must meet with both Manson and DeMasters to discuss the infraction.

“I know sometimes we’re a little flexible with the kids, but keeping the rules strict and keeping the doors closed is important,” Spanish teacher Marcos Marcano said. “You have to go through the front door and check in when you get here. I think that stuff’s important because we can avoid a lot of bad stuff.”

While students and staff adjust to this year’s new policies, Manson sees this as a way for the community vibe to evolve and fit today’s society.

“We thought this would be what we consider to be a culture change for this district,” Manson said. “We’re going to move on from ‘small town Celina,’ ‘it can’t happen here,’ ‘I know him he’s a parent that comes up here every week.’ We’re going to verify everything, we’re going to double check everything, and we’re going to do what’s necessary to make sure we do what’s the best way possible to keep somebody out of this building who should not be in this building.”

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