A School District That Plays It Safe

Forney, Texas, schools trains staff on challenges of securing schools


Mr. Thompson says the Forney district is studying advanced technology that would check visitors' driver's licenses against criminal databases in 48 states, then print out a picture ID of the person. The district also plans to install security cameras in most of its schools, he says.

Limited access

Outside the school, access to playgrounds is limited.

Assistant principal Scott Fisher is in charge of the school's "Go Bag," a large suitcase stuffed with first-aid supplies, two-way radio, flashlight, and student records, contact information, and parent pickup forms. If the school has to be evacuated for some reason, he says, the Go Bag goes along.

Ms. Deen is happy to show off other safety measures that helped win Claybon a Texas Safe School Award. Around noon a crowd of chattering 5-year-olds fills the tables in the cafeteria. "Watch," she says. A monitor holds up three fingers and almost instantly the room falls silent, as though somebody turned down the volume on a radio.

"If a little one is choking, you want to be able to hear it," she explains. "We can turn more than 600 kids off that fast."

She believes that kids as well as parents appreciate the sense of security that comes from a well-ordered environment. "We think that they feel safer. We think that they can think and learn."

Ken Lynch, a contractor, whose son Austin, 8, is a student at Claybon, says he is confident about the measures being taken.

"I'm not worried out here. They're pretty tight on security," he says. "The principal is always out in the morning."

Despite the safety award, Ms. Deen says, "We don't consider ourselves forerunners. We want to think that all schools are working on these same things."

Mr. Trump, however, points out that that is not the case. "The question is whether we're going to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. Six months from now if we don't have an incident, will we still be concerned about school safety? Columbine tells us, sadly, the answer is no."