As school begins, district police hope communication will minimize threats

Last year, before winter break, six different school districts received threats in one week.

AUSTIN, Texas — School halls are filling with students this week in central Texas.

“Let’s make it a great year. Let’s make it a safe year. Let’s talk about it, communicate when we need to,” said Lake Travis ISD Police Chief Andy Michael.

The 2022-2023 school year marks Lake Travis ISD Police Department’s second year and Michael’s fourth year with the district.

“Last year was a learning experience for all of us, while this year we are in a good place to start,” Michael said.

Michael was one of many law enforcement officers responding to threats to school security the week before winter vacation in December 2021. This year, he believes communication will be helpful in preventing threat.

“It sounds cliché, but, you know, ‘See something, say something,'” Michael said. “We encourage everyone to use our ‘Cavs Who Care’ advice line. We encourage them to contact any officer, any administrator, any staff member if they have a concern about of someone or something, whether it’s related to a threat or just, you know, maybe a mental health issue or if they think someone needs help, we encourage them really point it out.”

Michael has six other officers on his team. The seven of them rotate between the 11 LTISD campuses to build connections and help students, faculty and staff feel safe.

“Day to day, it’s really about talking to people. I mean, you know, the general day-to-day activities of school law enforcement are the communication relationships,” Michael said. “If someone is unfamiliar with ‘Cavs Who Care’ and feels they need to report something, they will go to someone they trust. And I strongly encourage my officers to establish those relationships, so they’re that trusted adult on that campus.”

However, if a threat arises, it can sometimes escalate to the district attorney’s office.

“Threats to our schools here in Travis County are incredibly rare, and we’ve been very lucky in that regard. But they are threats nonetheless that we take incredibly seriously,” Travis County District Attorney said. Jose Garcia.

Garza noted that his office doesn’t often get threatening cases at school, but there’s a threshold each case must meet before they get a call.

“The standard is whether or not there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and – in all cases involving a school – if it is close there will be a conversation between our office and the law enforcement partner to make sure we keep this school as safe as possible,” Garza said.

In any case, Garza added that he takes into account the whole context of a situation.

“In each case, we assess with our law enforcement partners, with the judges, what is in the best interest of the public safety of our community and in the best interest of the young person involved,” Garza said. .

Some school districts have started classes on Monday, others start later in the week. All law enforcement agencies are on alert for threats.

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