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East Texas schools increase security following Uvalde shooting

“If safety is not present in a school district, learning cannot and will not occur,” Chief Avera said.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 6:56 PM CDT|Updated: May. 25, 2022 at 7:05 PM CDT
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JACKSONVILLE, Texas (KLTV) - Schools across East Texas were on heightened alert Wednesday, with an increase in law enforcement on campuses and reminders to stay alert.

Multiple school districts posted to social media about an additional law enforcement presence, saying parents had no reason to be alarmed.

At Jacksonville ISD, Police Chief Bill Avera said he was determined to keep things as normal as possible while also making use of the local police department for increased patrols.

“I reached out to him (police chief) yesterday afternoon and said ‘I need some help in the morning’ and he delivered.” Avera said.

Avera, who was appointed by Gov. Abbott in 2021 to the Texas School Safety Center board, said he knows the police chief at Uvalde ISD very well.

“Our hearts just go out to the folks in Uvalde, and all of the people impacted. We have an ISD police department there. The chief is a great guy.”

Before coming to Jacksonville, Avera helped found Dallas ISD’s police department, making him a witness to major changes in school policing.

“When we started the Dallas ISD police department in 2003, we had 16 officers. They now have almost 200.”

Avera said while he remembers a time of leaving doors propped open and loose security. Gone are the days.

“Schools had always been considered a safe haven,” Avera said. “And it was never thought that bad things would come to school.”

He said no community is immune to tragedies like the one that happened in Uvalde.

“Many of them (school shootings) have not been in larger cities,” Avera said. “So it’s important for everyone in the community that’s involved with the schools to be vigilant.”

While Avera was patrolling the campuses in JISD Wednesday, the owner of East Texas’ Freedom Defense Training was busy coordinating security for other area districts.

“We had plainclothes and uniformed officers from our company on school campuses today and will for the rest of the week,” said Ray Barron, who added they will also provide security for graduations.

Barron owns and manages Freedom Defense Training along with Paladin Solutions, a protection agency. He said he’s been taking calls from individuals and school districts ever since the shooting happened.

“The first thing a lot of people lose is situational awareness” Barron said. “Pay attention to your environment. What fits and what doesn’t fit? Who is supposed to be there and who isn’t? And that even plays into school campuses. Also, take some protective measures for yourself. Just little things like putting your phone down and taking the earbuds out. Knowing what’s happening around you is so important because that’s the first step of personal protection.”

Barron also brought along a backpack of items that can be used for defense when a firearm is unavailable.

Items in Barron's backpack included a bleeding control kit, a door wedge, OC spray, and other...
Items in Barron's backpack included a bleeding control kit, a door wedge, OC spray, and other self-defense tools.(Blake Holland/KLTV)

“It’s crazy that we have to think about this, but it’s where we’re at,” Barron said. “The more layers you put out there, the harder it is for you to get hurt or end up losing your life.”

Many East Texas school districts say parents should continue to expect additional police presence on their campuses in the coming days.

“If safety is not present in a school district, learning cannot and will not occur,” Chief Avera said.

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