Townview Magnet Center, the newest addition to the Dallas public school system, boasts an impressive array of security measures. With 37 surveillance cameras, 6 metal detectors, 5 full-time police officers, and intruder-resistant gates, this state-of-the-art magnet high school is equipped to handle any security threat.
Designed with safety in mind, Townview Magnet Center aims to reduce crime through its innovative architectural features. For example, maple trees on the premises are carefully maintained to prevent obstruction of the building. Perimeter lights illuminate the grounds like a stadium at night, serving as a deterrent to potential intruders. The gates, consisting of single rows of 8-foot iron poles, appear impenetrable to scaling.
C.W. Burruss, the director of safety and security for the district, emphasizes the importance of such security measures. Located in the inner city, Townview faces potential disruptions from external sources. Mr. Burruss points out a nearby motel frequented by prostitutes as an example. However, he assures that the educational activities at Townview will not be disrupted.
School-security experts consider Townview Magnet Center to be the ultimate "safe school." While many schools have implemented security devices like metal detectors and alarms, Townview goes further by integrating safety into its architectural design. The combination of modern safety features and advanced security technology makes Townview a model for other schools to follow.
The establishment of Townview Magnet Center was motivated by a 1976 court order to desegregate the Dallas public schools. The school was designed to address the needs of a poor inner-city area with a predominantly minority population. Offering strong academic and vocational programs, Townview combines six magnet schools in one facility, with concentrations in various fields. The school welcomes students from all over the district, with a majority coming from minority backgrounds and qualifying for free or reduced-price school lunches.
Principal Ora Lee Watson emphasizes the importance of maintaining a safe environment to support the schools academic mission. The schools discipline code is strict, with expulsion being the consequence for carrying weapons. Students are also required to adhere to a dress code and carry photo identification cards. Ms. Watson understands that even bright students can make poor choices and believes in proactive involvement in student safety.
In the control room on the first floor, school police officer Nicholas Valenzuela monitors the school through television monitors displaying the footage from the surveillance cameras. This round-the-clock surveillance is essential for the protection of school property.
Townview Magnet Center stands as a testament to the districts commitment to providing a secure educational environment. By integrating advanced security features with cutting-edge technology, Townview promotes safety while delivering quality education.
A Penitentiary-like Educational Institution?
However, some students at this particular school have expressed their discomfort with the presence of surveillance cameras that constantly monitor their every move. They feel that the extensive security measures in place make them feel more like prisoners rather than students. "This entire project is excessive and unnecessary," stated Adam Moomaw, a junior student.
"They are even monitoring the high-achieving students. Its a complete waste of time and money," he expressed. Shannon Christopher, a ninth-grader, agreed that the level of security implemented is excessive. She finds the requirement to wear identification cards offensive. Mr. Burruss, the school principal, hopes to implement bar code cards for students to enter the school premises by the next academic year. Enola Aird, the director of the Safe Start Campaign at the Childrens Defense Fund in Washington, concurs that investing in high-tech security is not the solution to address the issue of school violence. "To combat the growing trend of violence in society, we must return to fundamental values," Ms. Aird asserted. "A spiritual approach, rather than a technological one, is needed to address school violence."
Furthermore, many students believe that they could easily outsmart the security technology if they wished to do so. "Anyone can bring prohibited items such as guns, knives, or drugs into the school without much difficulty," said one junior student. "All these security measures are ineffective."
While the schools police officers acknowledge that no security system is foolproof, they claim that the presence of metal detectors deters criminal activities. These officers, who patrol the Townview Magnet Center from morning until the end of the school day, appreciate the well-maintained landscape, bright lighting, and open design of the campus. Experts in school security will likely closely observe the Townview Magnet Center to determine whether a school engineered and equipped to prevent crimes is indeed safer than one without such measures in place. The results of the schools safety efforts will only be known once the district conducts an evaluation next year.
"The conditions are favorable for a positive outcome," stated Mr. Stephens of the school-safety center. "The real test lies in whether all this technological hardware will yield any significant impact."