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As school gets underway, district police hope communication minimizes threats

Last year before winter break, six different school districts received threats within a week.

AUSTIN, Texas — School halls are filling with students this week across Central Texas.

"Let's make it a great year. Let's make it a safe year. Let's talk to each other, communicate when we need to," Lake Travis ISD Police Chief Andy Michael said.

The 2022-23 school year marks the second year of the Lake Travis ISD Police Department and Michael's fourth year with the district.

"Last year, it was a learning experience for all of us, whereas this year, we're able to hit the ground running," Michael said. 

Michael was one of many law enforcement officers responding to school safety threats the week before winter break in December 2021. This year, he believes communication will be helpful in preventing threats.

"It sounds cliché, but, you know, 'See something, say something,'" Michael said. "We encourage everybody to use our 'Cavs Who Care' tip line. We encourage them to walk up to any officer, any administrator, any staff member if they have a concern about somebody or something, whether it's threat related or just, you know, maybe a mental health-related issue or they think somebody needs help, we really just encourage them to report it."

   

Michael has six other officers on his staff. The seven of them rotate among the 11 LTISD campuses to make connections and help students, teachers and staff feel safe.

"Day to day is really about just talking to people. I mean, you know, the general day-to-day business of school-based law enforcement is communication relationships," Michael said. "If somebody doesn't know about 'Cavs Who Care' and they feel that they need to report something, they're going to go to somebody they trust. And I strongly encourage my officers to build those relationships, so they're that trusting adult in that campus."

However if a threat occurs, it may sometimes escalate to the district attorney's office.

"The threats to our schools here in Travis County are incredibly rare, and we've been very fortunate in that regard. But they are nonetheless threats that we take incredibly seriously," Travis County DA José Garza said.

Garza noted his office does not get cases about school threats often, but there is a threshold each case needs to meet before he gets a call.

"The standard is whether or not there's probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and -- in any instance that involves a school -- if it's close, there is going to be a conversation between our office and the law enforcement partner to make sure that we are keeping that school as safe as we can," Garza said.

In any case, Garza added he takes into account all of the context of a situation.

"In every instance, we are evaluating with our law enforcement partners, with with the judges, what is in the best interest of the public safety of our community and in the best interest of the young person involved," Garza said.

Some school districts started class Monday, others start later in the week. All of the law enforcement agencies are on alert in case any threats arise.

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