Having adopted the I Love You Guys Foundation’s standard response protocol for emergencies, the Ector County Independent School District Police Department is training campus staff and other officers in the new procedures.
Trustees voted 7-0 March 5 to approve a memorandum of understanding with the foundation. ECISD Police Chief Todd Hiner told trustees the district would change the language used to call for, and respond to, lockdowns and other emergencies. Training has started to inform district employees, students and families.
Hiner said there will be more training during the summer. Director of Professional Development Debbie Bynum and Lt. Scott McKown are coordinating those efforts.
The standard response protocol includes lockout, lockdown, evacuate and shelter. Terms include:
- Lockout — get inside and lock the outside doors.
- Lockdown — lock the classroom doors, turn off the lights and get out of sight.
- Evacuate — everyone must go to an announced location.
- Shelter will be called when the need for personal protection is necessary, such as if a tornado hits.
- Hold in the classroom also is available for when hallways need to be kept clear, even during classroom changes. With this directive, students must remain in their classrooms and do business as usual, information from the foundation said.
Teachers should recover students and staff from the hallways, close and lock the classroom door, take roll and account for the students.
The protocol also covers family reunification.
Crockett Middle School Principal Maribel Aranda and her staff recently underwent training with the ECISD police department.
“I think it will be easier and less (confusing). Also, parents will be kept informed regarding procedures. It’s more organized and efficient,” Aranda said in a text message.
ECISD Board President Doyle Woodall said he doesn’t know much about the program, but the community and police department working together is a good thing.
“It’s imperative that the community and police department work together,” Woodall said. “We can’t be successful unless we are working together. Every time I see a police officer out and about, I’m more cognizant of if I’ve got my grandkids with me.”
The I Love U Guys Foundation was started in 2006 by Ellen and John-Michael Keyes following a school shooting at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo., that took the life of their daughter, Emily. One of the last things she texted her parents was “I love you guys.”
The protocol was developed in 2009 and improved upon since then.
The website said the foundation is committed to school and community safety, and family reunification following a crisis. Its programs have been implemented in more than 25,000 schools, agencies and organizations across the United States and Canada, the site said.
Hiner said portions of the foundation’s plan were used in ECISD’s response plan. Then he and Lt. Scott McKown decided they wanted to see what could be done with their current response plan to improve it.
Hiner said the department revisits its policies every year. He and McKown attended a certification workshop in standard response protocol in October 2018. It was hosted by Region 18 Education Service Center and promoted by the Texas School Safety Center.
“We were looking at it maybe just to modify our current plan, but we liked the whole thing. We thought this would be a great enhancement to what we’re doing,” Hiner said.
McKown said training has begun and the standard response protocol will take effect next school year.
The plan went through several steps from being presented to the district Emergency Operations Planning Team to approval of the memorandum of understanding with the foundation by the school board.
The protocol will standardize what is said during emergency situations throughout the district. Hiner noted that the material and information from the foundation is free.
“We do lockdown drills at every campus every year and I can tell you that every principal says something different,” McKown said.
Hiner said parents will be able to view the foundation video about standard response protocol, so they’ll know that’s being done for their children to keep them safe.
“The students were trained and if we go into a lockdown situation, the teacher’s going to tell them, ‘We need to go over there we need to be quiet.’ And they would comply with that, but the parents had no idea what was going on. But like chief said, now anyone can go online and go to the I Love U Guys Foundation and see everything that we have. It’s not so secretive now, which is going to be very important,” McKown said.
Hiner noted that the new standard response won’t be vastly different from the current plan in the way police respond.
The “hold” option is new.
“Let’s say you had a major fight in the hall, or something in the hall that you didn’t want the other kids evacuating so you would call on the PA, ‘Teachers hold in your classroom; clear the halls students,” Hiner said.
He added that if the plan needs modification, they can do that, or if something isn’t working, they can fix it.
Hiner said the change couldn’t happen without a progressive school board and superintendent.
The district’s Student Health Advisory Council has also placed an emphasis on school safety and Hiner is a member of the superintendent’s leadership team.
“We have been fortunate that they have all have been insightful enough to put emphasis into the police department and we want to give back,” Hiner said. “We were given an opportunity to make the campuses safe and we want to maximize everything that we can make sure everything is safe on the campuses. …”