ARE STUDENTS SAFE IN SCHOOLS?
Safety at school is a top priority in our Houston and Gulf Coast area public school districts. Houston area’s public school administrators and school boards address the question, “Are students safe in schools?” through school safety programs and regulations. These efforts protect students and staff from accidents, violence, injuries, cybercrimes, and weather emergencies. Parents can have peace of mind that our school districts are doing their best to maintain a safe learning environment for all.
Safety in School includes
- School Bus Safety
- Student Activity Safety
- Emergency Preparedness
- Building Safety and Cyber Security
- Mental safety
School Bus Safety
More than one million students in Texas depend on transportation services to get them safely to and from over 9,000 schools each day. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that school students are 70 times more likely to safely arrive at school via bus rather than by car. One reason is that school buses are the most regulated transportation vehicles on the road. School buses are designed and built to be safer than other transportation vehicles by being highly visible from the bright yellow color, the flashing red lights, and the red stop sign arms. The busses are designed with protective seating that can absorb impact in case of a collision in addition to being heavy machinery with built-in rollover protection. Laws that make passing school buses illegal when dropping off and picking up also help protect public school students from other drivers on the roads.
The School Bus Transportation Program from the Texas Department of Public Safety is responsible for curating the information and skills that are required to provide safe, dependable, and efficient transportation for public school students. The program oversees educational areas like School Bus Driver Certification & Recertification Course in order to maintain the bus drivers’ continuing education to safely transport students. The department also provides the twenty educational regional service centers with technical assistance.
The Texas Administrative Code on school bus safety standards explains more.
Athletics and Events Safety
Houston and Gulf Coast area public schools consistently educate students and staff on the importance of safety during student athletic practices and special events. The Texas UIL is dedicated to the safety and ongoing health of student-athletes. UIL provides resources on a range of safety issues like physical illness, medical procedure protocol, avoiding athletic injuries, proper training, and the use of automated external defibrillators and bleeding control stations, which can be found on their website. Public school districts are also required to follow an Emergency Action Planning Guide for after-school practices and student events.
Schools continually face emergencies, and public school districts take serious preventive actions to provide a safe space for students. Texas
Education Code (TEC §37.108) requires every Texas school district to have an Emergency Operations Plan in place that addresses prevention, preparedness. response, and recovery. The Texas Legislature also mandates that public school districts conduct safety and security audits of their campuses every three years, and they must appoint a committee on school safety that meets once a semester to evaluate the
district’s emergency plan.
TEA’s weather and disaster information page details resources for schools with students affected by disaster and health emergencies.
TEA’s Mental and Behavioral Health page states that outside of the student’s home, schools are the most likely place to detect mental health concerns. The earlier a student’s mental health concerns are detected and addressed, the more likely the student is to avoid onset and/or progression of mental illness.
Texas public schools provide numerous free services in order to assess, promote, and enhance students’ emotional, social, and mental health. These valuable services can include individual and group assessments, professional referrals, and interventions. The certified public school counselors and psychologists are dedicated to the mental health of students and the overall well-being of the entire school.
School Guidance and Counseling is executed by professional school counselors who aim to raise student attendance, improve academic performance, lower dropout rates, and increase the number of students who plan to enroll in postsecondary education.
Bullying and Violence Prevention
Public school students have the right to be educated in a safe environment, and preventing violence at school requires the collaborative efforts of teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community members. Anti-bullying awareness in schools greatly improves school safety and the learning environment for the entire student body.
Texas’ David’s Law focuses on harassment, bullying, and cyberbullying of students. David’s Law encourages mental health programs for public school students, outlines criminal penalties, and offers civil remedies. This bullying checklist is used by Texas public schools to adequately define bullying.
Cybersecurity and Building Safety
The safety of school buildings and the security of the campuses are a high priority among our Houston and Gulf Coast area public school districts. School staff restrict access to buildings during school hours by locking entry doors to the building and individual classrooms. Visitors can be identified using a valid ID, continually monitored during their visit, and diligently documented as they enter and exit the school campus.
The Texas School Safety Center defines school safety and the secure processes of visitors or guests.
Per the Texas Association of School Boards, public school districts should promote the responsible and appropriate use of school technology, train all staff and school employees in cybersecurity, encourage immediate reporting of suspicious activity or possible data breaches, create a cybersecurity crisis emergency plan, store sensitive data responsibly, and encourage awareness training for staff beyond what is required by Texas law.
Coronavirus in School
Our Houston-area families naturally have questions regarding COVID-19 safety and precautions. While our Gulf Coast school districts deal with the challenges of COVID-19, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) addresses current issues and Frequently Asked Questions for schools, students, and parents.
School safety in Houston area schools remain top priority for district administrators and staff. Most schools require each employee to familiarize themselves with current safety procedures by offering continuous safety courses. Because of past tragedies like the Santa Fe shooting of 2018, The Texas Department of Public Safety provides active shooter classes for all school staff and educators. Texas School Safety Training platforms like SafeSchools provide all school employees essential information to prepare for emergencies and protect our students.