Priority One: BISD Upgrades Security as School Starts

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The main entrances to all 54 Brownsville Independent School District campuses will be locked during school hours and will require admission from school staff under state-ordered guidelines that go into effect when the 2022-2023 school year begins on Tuesday.

All classroom doors also will remain locked during the school day, with door viewers to assist in seeing persons who are knocking at the door to be provided. All doors leading to outside the campus must be locked.

In addition, all students, staff and visitors will be required to wear photo identification badges.

BISD is in the process of bringing the new rules into force, district officials said at a Safety and Mental Health Committee meeting on Aug. 9. The meeting lasted more that two hours and came a week before school starts.

Earlier this summer, Gov. Greg Abbott directed Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath to order mandatory security measures at schools across the state, including that all school doors are locked and requiring everyone in the building, students, visitors and staff alike, to wear photo identification badges.

On June 1-2 Abbott issued a series of directives to Morath, the Texas Education Agency and the Texas School Safety Center in San Marcos to support public safety at schools across the state. The directives followed the May 24 tragedy in which a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.

On June 30 Morath sent a memo to superintendents across the state mandating a Summer Targeted Partial Safety Audit, the certification of which is due to TEA by Sept. 9.

“This is beyond having a police department. This is beyond having active shooter training, having lockdowns, having fire drills. This has a lot to do with how we have our facilities designed and how we’re going to limit access to visitors,” Superintendent René Gutiérrez said at the outset of the meeting.

TEA has said the audits will be conducted in every district in the state, Gutiérrez said.

“We want to make sure that when the audit comes we pass. We do know that every district is going to be audited. Intruder audits and making sure that all the door locks are working and that procedures are in place as to how visitors come into our schools to make sure that the incident that occurred in Uvalde does not occur, not only in Texas, but anywhere in the country.”

Nellie Cantu, the deputy superintendent for business and operations, then outlined what the audit will require.

She said the raptor system requiring visitors to gain access by pressing a buzzer and school personnel to then buzz them in, is in use at elementary schools and some middle schools.

Access at the high schools is via the guard shack, with BISD Police and Security Services monitoring access to parking lots and school personnel controlling access at the front door/main entrance.

Cantu said BISD is in the process of receiving bids and procuring raptor system hardware and software for schools that don’t have it.

During discussion on the IDs, Gutiérrez said they will need to show date, time and destination.

“Anyone in the building is now required to have a visitor’s pass and it must also identify the area that they’re going to. If it’s the gym or the cafeteria (for example), so now they’re going to have to be identified with a visitor’s pass by the area that they’re supposed to be visiting. It can’t say cafeteria and they’re out there in the gym and that’s directly in our plan,” he said.

Cantu added that visitors’ passes are important and asked parents to “please be patient with this process because our priority is to provide a safe learning environment to our students, faculty and staff.”

She made these additional points:

  • All classroom doors are to remain locked, with the exception that corridors between linked portable classrooms are to remain open so students can pass from one to another for instruction. All classroom and other doors leading to outside the campus will remain locked.
  • All classroom windows are to have window shades, which are being ordered, as are door viewers to assist with determining who is at the door.
  • Nine additional police officers have been hired for duty at elementary schools. That trend will continue.

“When we talk about monitoring and surveillance, this is an area that we believe BISD is ahead of the game because all our campuses are equipped with security cameras to monitor inside and outside of the school,” Cantu said.

“So our chief has been working with our police officers and our security guards to make sure that they’re being monitored and that they approach any suspicious vehicle or any suspicious person arriving at campus. We have alarms at all our facilities and then when the building is used after school or on weekends and especially when we have a large number of students let’s say a hundred students, we’re going to provide security staff. We will be monitoring the students regardless of the number of students that are there after school.”