School Safety Forum at EAD reviews status, techniques

EAST ALDINE – The public, educators and authorities involved in school safety held a face to face discussion last Monday, September 19 at the offices of the EAst Aldine District. EAMD Public Safety director Victor Beserra led the discussion, which covered concerns, status reports, and best practices to keep school children safe through the school year while on school property and traveling to school.

Participants included Aldine and Harris County School officials and area principals, police officers from Aldine and Harris County, HCEC officials, HCDE representatives, civic club and public participants, and State Representative Armando Walle. Walle was especially interested in possible legislative solutions to enhance the safety protocols.

Beserra started the meeting with a 10 minute video on how to deal with an active shooter who enters a school. The video illustrates the “Hide-Run-Fight” advice used in most training, Beserra said. It was produced by a school district in Santa Ana California. This well-done training film vividly shows the resistance techniques that can be used by students and staff in a dangerous Active Shooter situation.

The group then went around the room with introductions, and reports on the steps each had taken to enhance safety procedures in their areas of responsibility.

Discussion items included need for a rehearsed Action Plan, fighting and barricade techniques, need to know who is in charge at a scene, availability of plans of schools for first responders to use, need for mental health and counselors in each school to monitor and evaluate situations, physical design of buildings to include bulletproof glass, hardware considerations, internal communication in the school, radio communication among responding units, and more.

Walle wanted recommendation on what the Legislature, which meets starting in January, can do to increase safety. Ideas included expanding the Marshal program (which Aldine ISD does not want), increasing the budget for Safety Resource Officers and placing armed officers in all schools.

Other discussions included how to deal with fake threat calls, both to discourage them and deal with coordination of responders. At the fake call last week at Heights High School, too many responders and parents arrived in an uncoordinated way.

The HCDE representatives said that expanding availability of counselors was of prime importance. They indicated that they are conducting a safety audit of all Harris County schools, and requiring co-reactions where necessary.  They said that one common problem is that EOP or Emergency plans are often outdated, and building plans don’t reflect changes.

Officers suggested that all schools should have a “Go-Bag” for responding officers to use, with keys, entry cards, building plans, and other necessary information and tools.

In summary, Beserra thanks all that attended, and noted that more parents, and school principals and officials should come to the next meeting. He said that one way to increase safety is for more informal meetings such as these, to share ideas, information and experiences.