DEMING, N.M. (AP) — Deming Mayor Benny Jasso also is the safety director for Deming Public Schools. He has made a practice of dropping by campuses unannounced disguised as an intruder.
The game is to stop Jasso from penetrating layers of security at school sites. He says generally students are the first to spot him, as they are taking ownership of their campuses, the Deming Headlight reported .
School safety is a priority, especially after the Dec. 7 shooting at Aztec High School in the northern New Mexico town of Aztec. Authorities said William Atchison opened fire with a handgun, killing two students before killing himself. The Aztec shooting also provoked memories of a fatal shooting at Deming Middle School in 1999.
Security cameras cover almost the entire Deming High School campus and a combination of design features, daily routines, and security procedures are being refined to keep Deming schools secure.
"We are putting systems in place in our school that will make our students and staff safe . without making them feel like they are in a prison, because this is not a prison," Deming High School Principal Marlene Padron said.
By the end of January, everyone in the building will be required to wear staff or student identification badges on lanyards, and visitors are already required to display badges showing their destination. All staff are charged with being aware of visitors and redirecting them if they are not in the right place.
Students enter the school through a main entrance where staff will check for badges and send anyone without one to the front office. By 8:25 a.m., the only entrance to the school is through the office, and students arriving late for school must call to request the gate to their parking lot be opened.
"We are trying to make sure staff understands this is their campus and they have the buy-in also to assure their own safety and security," said Jasso.
If an intruder makes it past the buffers presented by the building's layout and procedures, there are technologies in place to help the school's security staff or any employee in the building to alert law enforcement and initiate lockdowns, which are practiced in routine code drills.
Deming police officers have been a visible presence on campus, sometimes visiting the cafeteria to get acquainted with students and patrolling other school sites.
The right combination of design features, consistent procedures, and diligent awareness will keep Deming High School an inviting and safe place, Padron said.