Houston Independent School District Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan hosted a school safety discussion on Wednesday with student leaders from across the district to discuss strategies to ensure their safety and well-being.
One student representative from every high school attended the morning meeting. The meeting, which will take place on a recurring basis, is part of an ongoing effort to increase the dialog around school safety in the wake of the tragic shooting at Bellaire High School last month, which resulted in the death of a student.
“I want to thank you all for coming out today,” Lathan said. “I want to thank you all for giving of your time and feedback on this very important issue.”
The morning opened with a discussion around what students believe is working on their specific campus. Supportive counselors, school size, diversity and inclusion were among the positives the high school students citied.
According to a student representative from Waltrip High School, the northwest-area campus has increased its focus on mental health by creating a plant-filled, meditation atrium for students.
“While we do have counselors on campus, some students just aren’t comfortable talking to adults,” she said. “We created this space so students could talk to one another about the issues they are facing in a safe and comfortable environment.”
Many of the student representatives echoed that sentiment, encouraging district administrators to consider an increase in campus counselors, as well as helping to build trust between adults and students.
“Find those red flags, and get support to each individual student,” the student representative from Westside High School said. “It is important that teachers are able to give students that support. It feels good to know you can come to school and have someone to talk to.”
While security measures like metal detectors and mesh or clear backpacks were discussed, the student representative from South Early College High School worried that some security measures could create a false sense of security and don’t address the root of the issue, which she said is addressing psychological needs of students with trained professionals.
Students are working diligently to find ways to help keep their community safe, including the student representative from the Houston Academy for International Studies, who is himself developing plans for emergencies with an emphasis on innovative technology.
“I am working on texting technology that can incorporate a 911 component,” he said. “I think it will be really effective for students because, for students, it is all about texting now.”
Lathan called on some of the high school student representative to give their final thoughts on school safety and security, including one representative from Bellaire, who expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to be heard.
“I want to commend you all for recognizing that there are root problems to gun violence,” she said. “I appreciate you all understanding that there is not a one-and-done solution.”