Friday, October 15, 2004

Security in Schools Used for Polling

In July, Homeland Security Officials announced their belief that al-Qaida may seek to mount an attack aimed at disrupting our upcoming election. Currently, we know of no specific information that would lead us to believe that this concern implies a specific threat to any Texas school, or to schools in general. However, we believe that the potential risk to students and others in schools used as polling places should be considered. We believe that prevention and deterrence are the best ways to ensure the safety of our students and teachers.

Following are some precautions and protective measures that we believe will help ensure the safety of students and others in campuses that are used as polling places on Election Day:

1) To the extent possible, consider shifting polling places to other non-school locations in order to eliminate any potential safety threat to students and others.

2) If possible, consider not holding class on Election Day in those campuses where polling is scheduled to occur.

3) If campuses to be used for polling will remain open, the following safety precautions should be considered. These precautions should be coordinated closely with local law enforcement and elections officials:

a) Make certain that polling activity is closed off from student activity and that all appropriate access control measures are in place. Public access to student areas on polling day should be more closely monitored than usual, with additional staffing placed strategically.

b) Consider placing a uniform or plain clothes police officer on campus for the day. Many campuses have School Resource Officers on campus under normal circumstances and Election Day should be no different. Officers should patrol student areas and make certain that the separation between the student area and the polling area is maintained. The officer should work with school personnel to make sure that proper access control procedures are followed. The presence of a police officer devoting his/her attention to student safety and acting in accordance with normal campus patrol activities would not be incongruous to the polling process.

c) Parking enforcement is critical, with particular attention paid to fire zones and building perimeters. Cars illegally parked curbside or otherwise should be considered suspicious and given immediate police attention.

d) Access to polling areas should be restricted to persons with a legitimate intention to vote. Voter identification procedures should ensure that persons without a legitimate purpose for their presence are scrutinized before entering the facility or immediately thereafter. Consider checking ID preliminarily, at the door, and then again in the normal fashion just prior to voting.

These points are not intended to be inclusive of all the things schools need to do to prepare for the risk of a terror attack. Again, we advise school officials to closely coordinate Election Day activities on campuses with local law enforcement and election officials.

To monitor alert levels or to learn about other sources for information on terrorism preparedness go to the State of Texas Official Homeland Security web site at: