GRIMES COUNTY, Texas — Lt. Martha Smith of the Grimes County Sheriff’s Office may care even more about school safety than even the average person. Not only did she serve as a school resource officer (SRO) for Anderson-Shiro ISD for years, but she has two children of her own attending local schools.
“We do not practice waiting on our emergency response team," she said. "If you’re the first person on [the] scene, you go to the threat.”
No one wants to think that a mass shooting could happen at their child’s campus. But police officers and school faculty have to consider that possibility constantly. In Grimes County, all school districts are even smaller than Uvalde CISD's population. Lt. James Ellis leads the GCSO emergency response team, and he's taken [the] time to make sure the county is prepared for what threats other Texas schools have seen.
“A few years ago, I created an active shooter response protocol for our school districts in Grimes County," Ellis said. "Part of my research in doing that, I traveled down to Santa Fe and I sat down with a lot of those law enforcement officers who responded to those events, so we could talk about those active shooter situations."
All Grimes County campuses, except for Richards ISD, have one armed SRO on scene, trained under the nationally recognized ALERT protocol. Lt. Smith noted that after the Uvalde mass shooting, Richards staff have been urgently seeking their own officer. The county sheriff’s office has its own response plan, separate from the initial actions taken by an SRO.
Ellis told KRHD that each scenario and tactic is different, including when approaching a barricaded subject who could potentially harm hostages if confronted directly. He noted these cases can be delicate, as rushing a barricaded suspect might motivate them to harm their hostages. Ultimately, though, Ellis said one priority remains: protecting those who can’t protect themselves.
“In a particular situation where an individual [was] to threaten the lives of a teacher or students, and it became an active shooter situation, it is, in my opinion, our responsibility as law enforcement officers to intervene immediately," Ellis said.
SROs receive yearly active shooter training, according to Smith. Just next week, Grimes County deputies and Navasota officers will be training at Anderson-Shiro's High School.
Each school district has its own measures to protect students. At Navasota High School, there is only one unlocked door for entry – the front. Cameras line the halls, as do stop-the-bleed kits. Some district faculty carry guns.
"We do participate in the guardian program," said Derek Bowman, director of personnel and administrative services for Navasota ISD. "... Not every teacher carries a gun. It’s a process... We don’t say what all campuses they’re located on, but they’re throughout the district.”
Bowman noted that Navasota ISD does practice lock-down drills, where teachers are instructed to lock doors and open them for no one. But ‘active shooter drills’ are not a part of the students’ emergency lessons.