EDITORIAL: Creating a LHISD Police Department is a safe bet for students, faculty, parents

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Long before the tragedy at the Santa Fe High School, Liberty Hill schools have been charting a course toward dealing with the massive growth our community is experiencing.

The plan for providing safety for our students has many more pieces to it than planning for something out of the ordinary like a school shooting.

Every school day brings with it the challenge of students who get into fights, possess items that are against the rules, and warring parents attempting to violate court ordered custody agreements.

Elementary kids try to get into the wrong vehicle after school, there are known sex offenders in the community, and there are students who are involved in car wrecks. And so far the schools have dealt with it all without overreacting or overreach.

Liberty Hill ISD leaders have done a good job of protecting our kids. The track record has been one of measured response to the real world. As the population of the schools has grown so has the safety plan.

As the community contemplates the public safety models and choices for our schools, we should ask what it is that we hope to accomplish.

Since we know that on most days school safety will revolve around the mundane, let’s begin there. The district will need to build an environment of trust and be in control of as much of the outcome as possible.

We think there will be officers in the schools during the next school year. Those officers will be mingling with the student population and that will be new. There will be situations where some kind of confrontation will occur, some kind of force will be used. That’s where school leaders need to weigh their opinions carefully.

Some are openly advocating for an intergovernmental agreement with an existing law enforcement agency like the Liberty Hill Police Department or the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department. While such an arrangement might save the school district some money, that shouldn’t be the deciding factor — there is so much more to consider.

The most important thing is those officers will answer to their agency, not to the school district.

We have to look no further than a few miles away where students have been injured while being subdued, had stun guns/Tasers used on them and in some cases been jailed because of misunderstandings.

It seems like the school district’s best bet is to create its own internal police department, hire experienced officers who do not possess bias or hidden agendas. By creating their own police department the district could require additional school-based training and the officers would ultimately answer to a department head hired by the Superintendent. This might stop the rampant politicking and constant jousting for control that seems to exist at some law enforcement agencies.

Our kids are in school to learn. It’s unfortunate that the public discussion centers now around their safety. It would be a compounded mistake for Liberty Hill ISD to tie itself to anything other than experience, professionalism and the highest levels of integrity.

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