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More Central Texas school districts leaning toward creating their own police forces

Mass shootings have forced local school districts to relook at safety measures.

AUSTIN, Texas — Many school districts have grappled with what the best course of action is when it comes to tackling school safety. As the school year comes to an end, school leaders are putting plans in motion for when kids come back. 

Eanes Independent School District is looking into creating its own police force, which was discussed during a board meeting on Tuesday night – a trend more and more school districts in Texas are following. 

"A lot has happened in public schools, especially since a year ago when the Uvalde tragedy occurred, and I think particularly since then, we have been very mindful of school safety and security," Eanes ISD Superintendent Jeff Arnett said.

Arnett explained he and the district have done almost everything they can think of to "traditionally" secure campuses, including adding door prop alarms and surveillance cameras and installing additional perimeter fencing.

But following the Uvalde school massacre, when 19 fourth-graders and two teachers were killed, plus one particular incident at the district, Arnett said more needs to be done to ensure Eanes ISD is doing everything possible to protect its students and staff. 

"We had a situation on one of our campuses early in the fall, very soon after everyone returned to school in September that, I think, reminded us that we've got to be vigilant at all times," Arnett said. "Fortunately, it was not a tragic situation, but it was enough of a wake-up call to help us understand that we've got to talk about additional measures."

In September, Cedar Creek Elementary, along with several other schools across the state, was part of a "swatting" situation, which is when someone phones in a prank in an effort to bring increased law enforcement presence in one place. 

The district has only discussed the creation of the police force, but legislation and cost could set it back.

"What's frustrating is that there's typically not very much money associated with that, and there's a significant cost that comes with all of the different measures that we're discussing," Arnett said. 

Eanes ISD currently has School Resource Officers (SROs) in partnership with the Travis County Sheriff's Office, but they are only at high school campuses, according to Arnett. 

Mo Canady, the executive director for the National Association of School Resource Officers, said when it comes to school districts creating their own police force, the size of the community, funding and recruiting are all factors that need to be considered.

"I think some of the times I've seen when when a district tries to form its own school police department, there's not adequate funding. They're not able to hire enough officers to really make it work as efficiently as it should. Now, that's not the story of all school-based police departments," Canady said.

Canady added that with any route a school or district takes, what's most important in a worst-case scenario is the first response. 

"We can't stand by and hold a perimeter while waiting for the calvary or the SWAT team or whoever it's going to be to arrive … the officers there, and our focus is, our SROs have to take immediate action to stop the killing," Canady said.

Another Central Texas school district, Jarrell ISD, approved creating its own police force last week. 

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