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Eanes ISD approves creation of district police department

The new police force will work closely with the district and school officials and local law enforcement agencies.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Eanes ISD Board of Trustees has approved a policy to form a district police department. The policy authorizes armed peace officers on all campuses, including elementary schools.

Eanes ISD said the new police force will work closely with district and school officials, local law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders. 

"We still rely on the partnership that we have with local agencies and law enforcement, so they will still be a part of the equation, but we'll have our own employed police officers on each of our campuses," said Jeff Arnett, Eanes ISD Superintendent. 

The policy the board approved outlines specific protocols, procedures and training in accordance with state law enforcement code and Texas Education Agency requirements. 

According to the district, the policy "places a strong emphasis on training related to student mental health, restorative justice and accommodations for students with special needs."

"We don't foresee these as being conventional police officers," Arnett said. "They're not just armed security guards. These are individuals that we see being fully integrated with each of our campuses, getting to know the students, working alongside of our teachers, supporting the mental health needs of our students and our staff, interacting with the community, providing training." 

"The Eanes ISD Board of Trustees remains steadfast in our commitment to ensuring the safety of our students and staff,” Board President James Spradley said. “We have always held this responsibility as a top priority; by establishing a dedicated police department, we are taking proactive measures to create a more secure, welcoming environment for the entire school community.”

That school safety is something that Chandler Hatchett, who has two kids in the Eanes school district thinks about every day. 

"I take my child to school and I hug him as if it's maybe the last time I'm going to hug him, and I can't believe it's the reality that we face," Hatchett said. 

Hatchett was at the school board meeting on Tuesday and it relieved to hear that the officers will do more than just secure the school. 

"I wanted to make sure that Eanes adopted policies that both increased the level of security through this police department, but also had the breadth and the width to consider every single student and consider the and consider the family feel that our district has and invite these officers to join our family instead of necessarily coming in to our campus just to do a job," Hatchett said. 

The district noted that the new policy aligns with the recent passage of House Bill 3, which is currently awaiting the governor's signature. If signed, the new law will mandate at least one armed security officer be present during regular school hours at every campus in Texas.

Eanes ISD said its newly formed police department will assume a broad range of responsibilities, including:

  • emergency response to incidents on campus
  • enforcement of district policies and regulations pertaining to safety and disruption
  • collaboration with school officials and local law enforcement agencies to coordinate security efforts
  • providing safety education and training to students, faculty and staff
  • the development of positive relationships with students and the community to foster trust and open communication

"It is imperative our staff and students feel safe, protected and valued on campus so they can focus on teaching and learning," Superintendent Dr. Jeff Arnett said. “Establishing a dedicated police department reinforces our safety and security efforts, and expands coverage to all campuses within the district.”

It's something parents have been calling for with more school shootings each year. 

"It's more than important, and it's something that I think every single elementary age parent across the United States is is shouting from the rooftops," Hatchett said. "We've got to do more to keep our kids safe in school."

Eanes ISD currently employs two school resource officers from the Travis County Sheriff's Office and six security staff members, incurring an annual cost of approximately $935,000. 

The district said the anticipated annual personnel cost for the new police department, comprising of 15 employees, is estimated at $1.6 million. HB 3 provides minimal funding to offset that cost, according to the district.

Eanes ISD said it will immediately begin recruiting security officers, with a goal of staffing campuses by the beginning of the next school year. The district hopes to have a fully commissioned police force in place by early 2024.

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