FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephanie Fontenot
Director of Communications and Marketing
Phone: (409) 766-5146
GALVESTON, Texas – Dec. 8, 2022 – The highest priority of Galveston ISD’s leadership surrounds one thing and one thing only: student safety.
To increase security measures at Ball High School, GISD will install a weapons detection system at the school’s entrance in the near future.
The system will be used to screen every individual who enters the school and will assist with identifying and deterring the presence of weapons.
“Our police department has responded to three instances this year that have involved a student in possession of a weapon at this campus,” GISD Superintendent Dr. Jerry Gibson said. “While we believe the instances are linked to a common source, it is time to increase security at this campus. We do not take student safety lightly. We will do everything we can to keep our students safe.”
“Many would think a weapons detection system consists of big, boxy metal detectors,” Gibson said. “However, this one does not. It is portable and can be moved to any area or campus event. Unless people know what they’re looking for, they won’t know what it is.”
“Additionally, this system can be programmed to only detect a weapon. A cell phone or just any small metal item will not set it off. Our students will not be slowed down as they come into the building at the start of the day.”
GISD is also planning to have metal detectors in place when Courville Stadium reopens in the fall of 2023.
“Some may see this as a drastic and negative image for the school district,” Gibson said. “I see this as a positive measure that directly supports our greatest mission: to keep our most precious commodity – our students – safe.”
Student safety has always been a top priority at Ball High School and all GISD campuses, and numerous efforts are taken daily to ensure a safe instruction environment for students.
“The state of Texas is requiring documented weekly safety checks,” Gibson said. “As a school district, we have been proactive and are doing the checks daily, sometimes multiple times a day, on all our exterior doors in an attempt to keep our students and employees safe.”
GISD completed a safety audit during the summer and has addressed any compromised areas.
Additionally, in an effort to evaluate the safety of every school district in Texas, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently visited GISD and determined the district’s buildings are safe.
“In regards to Ball High School, all students currently enter through one entrance, and they go through three checkpoints with administration every morning,” Ball High School Principal Joseph Pillar said.
“We also have a threat assessment team that meets monthly, and more often than that when situations occur, to identify and address any students who may be a threat to themselves or others,” Pillar added.
The presence of GISD’s Police Department is visible in Ball High School daily.
“We have officers patrolling the campus both inside hallways and outside of the building every school day,” GISD Police Chief Josette Rivas said. “Our officers sweep the outside of the building to ensure all doors remain locked.”
“We also have strong relationships with Chief Doug Balli with the Galveston Police Department and Sherriff Henry Trochesset with the Galveston County Sherriff’s Department,” Rivas added. “When we need extra patrolling presence or assistance with a situation, they are there quickly and in full support. We are thankful for their partnership and know they care about the safety of our students as much as we do.”
“We will also have extra police presence at arrival and dismissal times from Galveston PD soon,” Rivas said.
Ball High School students have also played an integral role in ensuring school safety this year by embracing the “See Something, Say Something” culture Ball High leadership has instilled.
Situations have been resolved quickly and safely after vigilant students have observed threats and reported them promptly to Ball High School staff members.
To further support the district’s “See Something, Say Something” culture, GISD’s Communications and Marketing Department recently updated the district’s online threat reporting system, which allows any individual – students, parents, or staff members – to anonymously report threats, safety, or bullying concerns.
The reporting form may be accessed through the district’s website at https://www.gisd.org/see-it-hear-it-stop-it, or by using a mobile device to scan the QR code on posters that have been distributed throughout all GISD campuses.
GISD’s Police Department is also planning to implement a campaign with Crime Stoppers to reward students who provide tips that lead to arrests.
Where it typically “takes a village” – in Galveston, it takes an island, and there are ways the Galveston community and GISD parents can assist in ensuring preventative student safety.
“Talk to your kids and be aware of what is in your child’s possessions,” Pillar said. “Be aware of what your child is accessing through their mobile device. Be open to working with school admin. Our ‘See Something, Say Something’ approach works, but we need that to be our fallback, not out front.”
According to Pillar, relationships are often at the center of school safety threats that arise.
“We have youth ministries that come in weekly to greet our students,” Pillar said. “It’s about building relationships with our students, and we try to do that daily in a number of different ways.”
“When a student comes to Ball High School, I never want safety to be a worry,” Pillar added. “I want them to be thinking about whatever test they have to take, or a project they need to complete, but safety is a worry I never want them to have.”