After the recent student stabbing at Spring High School, parents in that district grew angry with administrators, wondering if their children were safe at school. We wondered what the procedures were for various situations in Tomball and went seeking answers from school officials.
Tomball administrators and police officials have procedures and plans in place for varying degrees of emergency situations, they said.
"Safety and security are the top priorities here," said Tomball ISD Communications Director Staci Stanfield.
Tomball Police Chief Robert Hauck said the district is focused when it comes to preparing for emergency situations.
"The school has a crisis procedure management plan and employees can open this up and follow everything step by step," he said.
Neither Stanfield nor Hauck wanted to talk about specifics at Spring High, given that they were not involved in the procedures in that incident. However, both were very open in talking about measures they would take in a similar situation in Tomball.
Stanfield said that the advent of social media can cause untrue information to spread like a wildfire.
"We want to communicate with parents as quickly as we possibly can, but we also want to make sure that all information we communicate is factual," she said. "Social media is not always accurate and we prefer our parents to hear from us."
To that end, the district uses a system called the School Messenger Rapid Notification system. It gives the ability for the district to send thousands of phone calls and emails within minutes, notifying parents of whatever situation may be occurring.
"We have received positive response from our parents regarding the system," she said.
She said the district has to rely on parents and guardians to provide correct contact information. Once they do, it is uploaded into the system that same day.
"It's important for them to update their information with us as soon as it changes," she said.
As far as procedures, Stanfield said that all campuses conduct safety drills and training on a constant basis.
"We want parents and students to feel comfortable about going to school," she said. "We want them to be safe and it's important for them to know that we constantly think about this."
Hauck said that when it comes to procedures, securing the safety of the students and faculty are the first priority.
"If there was a fight that broke out or a shooting or something of that nature, we would focus first on containing the instigators and then focusing on anyone who may be injured," he said. "Of course everything depends on what is actually happening, who is involved and the level of chaos that is occurring."
He added that it is important for all responding agencies to be of one voice and on the same page.
"We would be sizing up the incident as quickly as possible, setting up an incident command and if we needed to call for assistance we would need to manage it – meaning that we need to know what we need, be prepared and ask for that specific type of help."
Stanfield also wanted parents to make sure they understand the difference between a lockdown procedure and a shelter in place order.
"In a lockdown, all exterior and interior doors are lock ed and no one enters or leaves. We call the police," she said. "A shelter in place is for weather or environmental concerns and we would lock the exterior doors and windows and shut the air conditioning down so that contaminants cannot enter in through the system. More than likely if someone is near a campus that has a shelter in place order, they need to seek shelter as well."
With the sheriff's office confirming that gang ties played a role in the Spring High stabbing, Hauck said a community plays an important role in ensuring that gangs don't infiltrate their areas.
"The important things are maintaining an aggressive posture and stance on not accepting conduct that is consistent with gang activity," he said. "I saw that activity constantly over my 20 years in Los Angeles and we won't accept that as a police department, but more importantly is that our community doesn't tolerate it."