School’s out for summer, offering a prime opportunity for educators to collaborate on school safety in the wake of the recent Santa Fe tragedy.
More than 200 educators and law enforcement officials from Harris and surrounding counties gathered for a day-long school safety session as the Center for Safe and Secure Schools hosted the Student Safety and Discipline Institute on June 6 at Harris County Department of Education, 6300 Irvington.
Keynote and breakout sessions tackled topics such as active shooter training, suicide prevention, student mental health, drug prevention and violence, cybersecurity and social media monitoring and school safety. The free event featured Gaye Lang, who specializes in Restorative Practices as an adjunct professor for Texas Southern University; Sasha McLean, executive director of Archway Academy, a recovery school; and Eloise Sepeda, a Restorative Justice trainer.
HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr. provided the welcome and applauded attendees for taking a community approach to solving school safety issues.
“I appreciate your fearlessness and your ability to step forward rather than stepping back,” Colbert told the crowd.
McLean, whose school resides in inner-city Houston, took action by sharing her basic active shooter presentation which included roleplay on swarming, a crowd approach to deterring an active shooter, with power in numbers.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s one person acting alone,” said McLean. “If I have a weapon, the first thing you want to get your hand on is the shooter’s arms. The goal is to contain the firearm.
“If you can’t run and have no other choice, I want you to protect yourself. It’s important for you to visualize what that would be like.”
Closing the presentation, a panel discussion provided opportunity for information sharing as Yates High School student Zachary Steward moderated a discussion between superintendents and school law enforcement leaders, including retired police chief Alan Bragg; LaTonya Goffney, Aldine ISD superintendent; H.D. Chambers, Alief ISD superintendent; Victor Mitchell, police chief at Spring ISD; Brian Allen, director of safety and security, Galena Park ISD; and Ecomet Burley, director of the Center for Safe and Secure Schools.
“Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools continues to evolve and seek innovative ways to support school districts’ efforts to maintain safe and secure learning environments,” said Ecomet Burley, director for the Center for Safe and Secure Schools.
“We’re looking at a lot of different topics today like cybersecurity, restorative discipline practices and how to recognize students who are troubled in order to proactively get out in front of these problems.”
Currently the Center for Safe and Secure Schools focuses on four areas of services: school culture and climate, emergency management planning, safe school plans and facility audits, and member benefits.
The center’s newest service area called Restorative Discipline Practices provides alternative discipline methods versus the traditional, exclusionary or punitive systems. Restorative practices work to promote positive school climates.
For more information about the Center for Safe and Secure Schools and its upcoming events, follow the center’s Facebook page: @HCDECSSS.