After the Mission CISD board of trustees expressed concern about the lack of security guards at the elementary campuses, the district proposed hiring 15 unarmed security guards to be stationed at each of the 14 elementary campuses and at the Roosevelt Alternative School. The board approved the purchase for the commissioned officers at a special meeting Aug. 15.
The board also approved an interlocal agreement with the Pct. 3 constable’s office, which states that one constable will travel between each of the six elementaries outside the Mission city limits and provide support where it is needed. Mission CISD is only paying for half the salary for the roving constable, the other half will be paid by the county.
In addition, the Mission Police Department will provide the district with a roving corporal for the elementaries inside Mission boundaries, free of charge. The corporal will monitor the morning and afternoon traffic. During school hours, the officer will provide support where it is needed.
The guards and officers are to report to their respective campuses on Aug. 22, the first day of school.
MCISD already had 20 security guards that were employed with the district. Eleven peace officers were also previously contracted to cover in their jurisdictions — seven from Mission PD, two from Alton PD and one with Palmhurst PD. With the addition of the 15 officers, one roving constable and one roving corporal, a total of 47 security guards and officers will now be employed with the district.
The 15 new guards, which are contracted from Valley Metro Security, will be paid $11.21 an hour, at eight hours per guard. The total cost for the first semester will be $102,860. At the end of the first semester, district officials will evaluate if the guards were effective and determine if their services will be needed for the second semester. A person will be hired to conduct and oversee the evaluations, according to Superintendent Ricardo Lopez. He hopes to fill the position by September.
In addition, MCISD is conducting a feasibility study for an internal police department, a project that has been in the works for a few years now, according to Lopez and Director of Risk Management Sylvia Cruz.
When trustee Jerry Zamora ran for school board in the Spring, he said his 18 years in law enforcement and military experience would help bring more knowledge to the district about security on campus.
“We’ve been working on [increasing security] for a long time. We also have a board member that is a DPS trooper. That’s why he ran, to support us in that area, and I think that’s the impetus to move things. Also because of things that happen like Sandy Hook…it seems that there is a lot of violence and now it’s the norm to have violence in schools,” Cruz said. “But I think the blessing is that we have this board member that just so happens to be a DPS trooper and he can share that perspective from law enforcement to expand, to make things better for the district.”
Cruz said the district has had an increase in divorce decrees. Often a student’s mother and father will get into arguments on school property and a peace officer is needed to mediate.
“We’re seeing more dispute or child custody cases, where, unfortunately, the parents bring their issues to the campus,” the risk management director said. “That’s really difficult because that’s not where they should take care of their issues but we can’t control that. So we need someone with authority. The [security guard] will help the security of the perimeter, but they don’t have arrest authority. That’s why we need the rover.”
Besides providing increased security, traffic issues and parental disputes, Cruz said the officers can also be used as a tool to implement prevention of illicit activity.
Last year the state made a new law that decriminalizes truancy and places more responsibility on the parent. The law lays out a prevention plan that requires collaboration between with the school, parents and the student in question.
“We want to change the paradigm from arresting kids to helping them make better choices,” Cruz explained. “The whole state is changing the paradigm, they want to help these kids that are in need, that don’t have the support at home, so we’re aligning to that too. So you’ll be seeing a lot of changes to the schools.”