At their regular meeting in late Novemeber, trustees approved:
n Implementation of a security plan to restrict access to the district’s schools.
n A study aimed at re-establishing random drug testing at Moreno and A.C. Jones High School.
n Plugging a policy loophole that had allowed a known sex offender to visit BISD campuses.
Following more than a year of research plus demonstrations and consultation with each school principal, Erasmo Rodriguez, BISD’s assistant superintendent, and district architect David Brown offered their plan to enhance security at campus sites within the board’s budget.
Basically, the plan calls for installation of an Aiphone System, a video intercom in a central office of each school that allows the operator to control access.
“It’s not 100 percent foolproof,” Brown told the board, “but it’s a beginning. It won’t break the bank.”
The cost for equipping all BISD schools with the system is around $200,000.
Trustee Kevin Behr, a professional law enforcement officer, expressed doubts about the proposed entry system.
“All it is, is an expensive intercom,” he says. “Instead of having them installed at various doors on every campus, why not just put up a sign that says ‘come to the front entrance?’”
Behr jokingly told the board that, as a law enforcement officer, he would prefer to see every school surrounded by a 10-foot fence with angled razor wire.
Rodriguez replied that fences send negative messages.
Behr admitted such a hardened fence might not be pleasing to the eye.
Trustee Matt Huie suggested that security systems be installed at all the campuses, except the high school, to allow any problems to be ironed out.
“There’s just so many holes at the high school,” he said. “It just seems like a logistical nightmare.”
Brown agreed, noting that any high school facility always is more difficult and more expensive.
In addition to installing Aiphone entry equipment at the high school doors, the security plan also calls for restricting access to the school’s parking lot during school hours.
The board told Erasmo to take the next step, which Rodriguez said was to prepare a detailed bid for the installation.
“We’re on a fast track now,” he said.
The board also asked Superintendent Dr. Sue Thomas to form a committee consisting of teachers, students, parents and at least one board member to examine the district’s policy on random drug testing on students involved in UIL activities.
Such testing is not new to the district, Thomas told the board, noting that it was discontinued some years ago because of budgetary constraints.
Thomas said she was asking for the testing to be reinstated, citing numerous requests from teachers asking for it.
“This might be a partial solution to some of the drug problems we have in the school and in the community,” Thomas said.
While legal restraints exist that prohibits drug testing of an entire student body, linking such testing to students involved in UIL activities would guarantee that a majority of students would be subject to the testing.
If adopted, the testing would involve both high school and middle school students.
“This is a positive step,” Behr told the trustees. “I’m not so naive to not think that the drug problem will go away, but it will make it a drug-free requirement to participate in a lot of school activities.”
The trustees named Behr to represent the board on the committee.
Thomas pointed out that such a requirement gave students an excuse to decline any offer to experiment with drugs.
Each test would cost the district around $20.
As often is the case at BISD board meetings, Huie viewed the suggestion from a financial perspective. “We need to recognize that, if we’re going to do it right, we’ll have to spend some money,” he said. “It will have budget implications.”
Following a review of the previous drug testing policy, the committee will be charged in proposing a revised, up-to-date version that Thomas hopes can be implemented at the beginning of the 2014 school year.
What appeared as a mundane item on the agenda, a revision of district policy, was to plug a loophole that had left the district no legal standing to prevent a convicted sex offender from visiting a campus.
Thomas explained that the offender, who was the stepparent or the boyfriend of the mother of a child attending school, was visiting a school.
While he was on probation, Thomas explained, she had legal grounds to ask the police to remove him from the campus.
But once the man was off probation, he couldn’t be banned from the campus “because the district did not have a policy in place that specified our procedures as far as sex offenders go.”
Thomas presented a new policy prepared by the district’s attorneys.
“I’m recommending that we pass this new policy of first reading so that…”
“SO MOVED,” Trustee John Fish interrupted.
The vote was unanimous.
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.