From panic buttons to bullet-resistant lobbies: Northside ISD implementing several security changes

More than 102,000 NISD students will start new year on Aug. 28

SAN ANTONIO – The largest school district in the San Antonio area officially starts classes on Monday, Aug. 28.

Northside Independent School District is welcoming 102,000 students this year to more than 125 campuses or programs.

It’s a massive number and school safety is once again top of mind as students head back.

NISD Police Chief Charlie Carnes said the district has made several security changes this school year to address the growing enrollment and potential threats.

More than 100 fully-commissioned and armed law enforcement officers currently work for the district.

“We’ve stepped up patrols, we have audits from the state and internal audits on the security of our facilities. We’re checking on a regular basis the exterior doors to make sure they’re operating properly and they’re secure,” Carnes said. “We also have more campus officers checking elementary campuses daily. We have two officers at every high school, one officer at every middle school, 24-7 patrol.”

Other changes for the district include bullet-resistant security lobbies and single point of entry at every elementary school, plus high school students must now have their student IDs visible.

“We have panic buttons being installed at every Northside high school campus that will automatically feed into our police dispatch and lock all the exterior doors,” Carnes said.

NISD’s police department also has access to more than 9,000 surveillance cameras that feed into the district’s communications center.

“There’s alarm systems after hours to make sure that our schools are safe and no one’s entering our schools when they should not be,” Carnes said.

The district’s communication center is also a valuable tool to monitor social media.

“Social media threats are a very serious thing. We deal with that more and more over the past few years. It’s a serious crime and we try to prosecute to the fullest for someone that’s going to give out a social media threat. We have filters and scrubs through our technology, so we get alerts when certain things are mentioned,” Carnes said. “We take every threat serious and we follow up on every lead that we have until there’s just absolutely nothing else to follow up on.”

The district is also looking to install O2 sensors in school facilities to curb vaping and e-cigarettes on campus, and throughout the school year will start to number all of its exterior doors so officers can respond faster to an emergency.

“We don’t want that outside element coming into our schools. We have 355-square miles of school district and that takes a lot of folks to perform the duties that we need to perform.”

Click here to learn more about NISD’s Safety Initiatives for the 2023-24 school year.

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About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.