County addresses school violence

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Austin County Sheriff Jack Brandes reported Monday that his department remains vigilant in monitoring potential threats at area schools as violence has escalated in other parts of the country.

On Valentine’s Day, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz confessed to killing 17 and wounding more than a dozen more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., an incident now classified as one of the world’s deadliest school shootings.

Since then, panic has erupted at schools all over the country and several youth have been apprehended for making threats on social media. Sealy High School administrators responded to a threat to “SHS” posted on social media, which was later found to be a juvenile female targeting a school in Ohio.

Brandes said Monday that a similar threat was investigated at Brazos High School in Wallis but was later found to be related to Brazoria, Texas, which is not in Austin County.

County law enforcement required action 3,027 times in the month of January, Brandes said. School patrols included 98 openings and closings, the sheriff added.

“We were there 110 times so we had two deputies at some of the openings and closings; that’s 112 percent of the time we were there for these schools,” Brandes said. “Right now, with what’s going on in our country, throughout the United States, we’re paying particular close attention to our schools. One night last week, myself and [an investigator] responded at nighttime down to Wallis. At Brazos school, we had an information that a student had made a threat and it said BHS … it was supposedly made in Wallis, but come to find out, it was made at Brazoria High School. After a little bit of investigation, we uncovered that.”

Sheriff’s deputies are on high alert, Brandes said.

“We’re heightening our awareness with the schools,” he said. “Any and every threat made to any school system that lies in the county will be handled by the sheriff’s office and will be thoroughly investigated … We’re staying on top of it.”

In other matters Monday, commissioners unanimously approved variances to subdivision regulations and agreed to contribute to a state project at F.M. 2429 and Mill Creek Bridge.

The county agreed to contribute 10 percent toward right-of-way acquisition for the Mill Creek Bridge project, budgeted by the Texas Department of Transportation at $130,441. The county’s contribution amounts to roughly $13,000.

Commissioners also agreed to a one-time variance in subdivision regulations to subdivide a five-acre parcel out of a 33-acre tract on Kidd Lane in Precinct 1, as well as a one-time variance to subdivide a 2.5-acre parcel out of a 5.5-acre tract on F.M. 1094 in Precinct 2, a one-time variance to subdivide a four-acre parcel out of a 111.7-acre tract on Schultz Road in Precinct 2 and a one-time variance to subdivide a 3.9-acre parcel out of a 131.317-acre tract on Highway 159 West in Precinct 2.

The court also authorized use of an insurance claim reimbursement to repair and rebuild a wind-damaged shed in Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Rinn’s district.

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