In the wake of the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza on Wednesday asked parents, students, and school staff to be the first line of defense when it comes to keeping HISD students safe.
“The best preventative measure is a well-informed school culture – a student body that feels comfortable bringing information forward,” Carranza said.
He urged students that if they “see something, say something” and report any concerns to an adult.
He also joined Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez in calling on parents to talk to their students about the consequences of making jokes or threats regarding school safety on social media, in person, or through other channels. Threats – even if considered a joke by the person who made them – are considered crimes.
“One of the things you don’t joke about, no matter what, is a threat,” said Acevedo. “It is considered a terrorist threat, and you will be investigated and charged with a crime.” He added that his office can identify those who make threats anonymously on social media.
Gonzalez urged the public to come forward and report anyone they suspect may be planning an act of violence against a school.
“We will take your report seriously, and we will investigate promptly,” he said.
He also urged parents to talk to their students about social media and how to report incidents of bullying or threats.
“Now more than ever, we need brave students to come forward with information that will help law enforcement prevent attacks and also stop those who make threats,” Gonzalez said.
Carranza said HISD is reviewing its emergency response plan and working closely with the Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. He said schools will be practicing various safety drills over the coming weeks.
He also acknowledged that students across the nation are planning various walkouts and protests over the next few weeks to draw attention to the issue of guns in schools after the Parkland shootings, saying that HISD is preparing for such scenarios with safety in mind. He said teachers are already leading class discussions on the topic.
“We feel strongly that the safest place for students is in school. Our teachers are prepared to have those kinds of discussions – in fact they’re already having those discussions with students – so they can express their opinions,” Carranza said. “I believe in the First Amendment, and if students peacefully want to make their feelings known, that’s what we’re educating students to be able to do – express themselves in a peaceful way.”
He added that he does not encourage walkouts and emphasized that the safest place for students is the classroom.