Magnolia ISD becomes first district to complete safety trainings with Homeland Security

Magnolia ISD staff and Montgomery County Precinct 5 constables received safety and security trainings from the Department of Homeland Security and ARC in the last year.

Magnolia ISD staff and Montgomery County Precinct 5 constables received safety and security trainings from the Department of Homeland Security and ARC in the last year.

Magnolia ISD is the first district in the country to pilot two new safety and security trainings from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ARC—Aware (of surroundings), Ready (to act in a threatening situation) and Capable (of doing what needs to be done to survive)—regarding school safety threats. The district implemented these programs beginning in August 2017 and August 2018, respectively.

Since the district's Tax Ratification Election failed, MISD allotted $1 million of the $106 million budget in safety improvements, including assigning Montgomery County Precinct 5 constables at each campus.

MISD Director of Transportation Tim Owen said Homeland Security partnered with MISD in 2017 to give safety and security training designed for school transportation departments. The three-tiered course provides emergency planning for transportation operations and bus drivers during school threats, and the transportation department as well as the constables had follow-up training with Homeland Security on Oct. 22, he said.

“School district transportation departments have always focused on safety, but now we bring another aspect of security. Both of these go hand-in-hand," said Martin Zelezinski, transportation security administration inspector for Homeland Security, in an Oct. 22 press release. "Magnolia ISD was the first school district across the U.S. to pilot this program. Now the program has rolled out across the nation and we are getting districts calling us to learn more about the free training."

Bus drivers were already required to do pre-route and post-route bus inspections for safety threats, so Homeland Security employees hid backpacks in 20 buses to see how thorough the driver's inspections were. In Dec. 2017, they found 80 percent of the backpacks. In Feb. 2018, following the second tier of the program, they found 100 percent.

The district operates 148 buses and transports approximately 8,000 students, according to a press release.

MISD also completed the interactive safety training with ARC at the end of September. Jeff Hine, vice president of training at ARC, led the training session. Hine has worked as a secret service agent for President Ronald Reagan and as a customs special agent, as well as for the SWAT team and Homeland Security.

"He was doing these active-shooter trainings for the Department of Homeland Security and he realized that there were other groups that could really benefit from that type of training," MISD Director of Communications Denise Meyers said in an interview. "It is all scenario-based. He would be giving his presentation about what to do if there's a gunshot and all of a sudden, a blank gunshot would go off outside the room. He had just told them what to do, and now they have to put it into action."

Meyers said the staff had positive feedback and feel more prepared in case a safety threat was to happen in their school.

"[They said] it was more than just going through a PowerPoint and learning what needs to be done. It was actually going through the motions and hearing the sounds. So for them to hear that and know what that sounds like now, one teacher said it was very jarring but effective," Meyers said.

MISD will host a parent safety information session Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the Magnolia Event Center to give parents information about these safety trainings and what to expect from the district in the case of a safety threat.
By Kara McIntyre
Kara started with Community Impact Newspaper as the summer intern for the south Houston office in June 2018 after graduating with a bachelor's degree in mass communication from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. She became the reporter for north Houston's Tomball/Magnolia edition in September 2018, moving to Alpharetta in January 2020 after a promotion to be the editor of the Alpharetta/Milton edition, which is Community Impact's first market in Georgia.


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