Campus safety top priority at Exeter Schools

By Nancy Gutierrez

On Monday Nov. 24, a 25-year-old Farmersville man was arrested outside of Wilson Middle School for stalking and annoying a child. The man had followed a 12-year-old girl home from Wilson previously and at the time of the arrest, police found the girl's name and address in his car.

It was ultimately the efficiency of Wilson administration and staff that lead to the arrest of Reuban Herrera and assured the safety of one of their students.

Schools cannot stop people like Herrera from attempting to approach the school, but they can safeguard their students by always keeping a watchful eye.

"We have teachers patrol the interior and exterior of the school throughout the day," Exeter Union High School principal Don Brinkman said. "We keep and eye on students, but primarily we go through the neighborhoods looking for suspicious vehicles or people."

Brinkman said staff does not hesitate to directly confront people on or around campus who look suspicious or are not familiar.

"We aggressively pursue people and find out why they are here," he said. "We don't allow anyone to hang around campus."

District-wide procedure involves active communication with the Exeter Police Department when unknown individuals are around campus. But Brinkman said they have not had to contact police about unwanted individuals on campus.

"Kids now days know who doesn't belong," he said. "They don't want to feel threatened and we want to make sure the students and staff are safe."

It was the Wilson student who first noticed Herrera and alerted a teacher. Wilson Administration wasted no time in calling the proper authorities. This is campus policy at each site.

"We follow the same guidelines that Wilson followed by calling the police," Rocky Hill Elementary School Principal Jessica Bradshaw said.

She said teachers and staff at Rocky Hill are also always on the look-out for unfamiliar and even familiar adults, "hanging around," who shouldn't be on campus. An added concern for elementary school staff and parents is the time after and before school when students walk to and from campus. Bradshaw suggested the possibility of safe watches or safe houses. Students walking to school who feel threatened could go to a neighborhood home for safety.

Bradshaw said there have been no instances of unwAnted individuals at Rocky Hill that she could remember, but student are still taught what to do when approached by a stranger.

"The hardest thing to get kids to understand is that they can't fight off an adult," Rocky Hill teacher Gina Wise said. "And they need to remember that a stranger is any adult regardless of their gender."

At Lincoln Elementary School some students participated in The Child ID Program of America. Students took digital photos and fingerprints and had their height and weight recorded.

After utilizing digital fingerprinting and picture taking materials the children received identification cards which can be used to reproduce posters of children immediately upon abduction or other emergency. 

Every year, hundreds of children are abducted by strangers. In abduction cases, time is of the essence, and the sooner law enforcement can make public pertinent information, including pictures and fingerprints, the better chance they have at bringing the child home safer. This strategy aims to provide parents with safety identification cards for their children while providing police with important information that can be used in case of a missing child report or other emergency. This type of effective action will help prevent abduction as well as aide authorities to respond quickly when one occurs.

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