Local Superintendents Come Together to Address School Safety

Since the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012, according to The New York Times, more than 400 people have been shot in over 200 school shootings across the county.

In May, the bloodshed hit Texas, again.

Ten people died and 14 others were injured when a gunman attacked students at Santa Fe High School, near Galveston.

Less than a week later, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held his first round table discussion with teachers, parents and law enforcement officials. Those discussions eventually led to his school and firearm safety action plan. This summer, school districts across the state are reviewing their security measures.

NBC 5's Kris Gutierrez recently sat down with the superintendents at four of the largest school districts in North Texas to discuss the issue further.

From Collin County, he met with Dr. Mike Waldrip, who is superintendent at Frisco ISD.

It is the fastest growing school district in Texas, and with 72 schools, about 60,000 students and 7,000 employees, Frisco is the fourth-largest school district in North Texas.

In Denton County, Dr. Kevin Rogers is the superintendent at Lewisville ISD.

He leads roughly 52,000 students at 69 schools. With more than 6,500 employees, Lewisville ISD is Denton County's largest employer.

In Tarrant County, Dr. Kent Scribner is the superintendent at Fort Worth ISD. He's in charge of 143 schools and roughly 11,000 employees.

With 86,000 students, Fort Worth ISD is the state's fifth-largest school district.

In Dallas County, Dr. Michael Hinojosa is the superintendent at Dallas ISD. There are roughly 230 schools and 156,000 students in the district.

It's the second-largest school district in our state, and with 20,000 employees, it's also one of Dallas' largest employers.

All four men had never sat down in the same room together.

"I want to talk about school security," Gutierrez said. "We'll start with Dr. Hinojosa, you were part of a task force that the governor created for the round table discussions. Are you happy with his 40 page plan?"

"I consider it more of a framework than an actual plan," Hinojosa said.

"What is it that you do like," Gutierrez asked.

"Every one of these shootings, it's one individual who cried out, somehow, to somebody, that they needed help," Hinojosa added. "Part of the framework or part of the plan, does address how do you identify those students and get them help in a non-punitive way to prevent these kinds of things."

"The governor asked the legislature in the next session to look at mental health," added Rogers. "I totally believe that we've got to put money and resources into preventative and mental health."

"The most important thing for us is to invest in the emotional well-being of the students," Waldrip said. "Like Lewisville, we too, are putting more resources into counseling, crisis counseling, getting into that aspect of identification, intervention and prevention."

"This is a very complex issue," Scribner said. "Complex social problems require complex social solutions. This cannot only be the schools. It needs to be schools, law enforcement, mental health community and the state funding it and backing it strongly."

"There are a lot things on the table in this plan, what do you think, realistically, will change in your district, over the summer in your district?" Gutierrez asked.

"We have a great relationship with local law enforcement," Hinojosa added. "If we can have their presence in our buildings to fill out their reports, we'll set aside a place or a conference room, or in the cafeteria, a table that's for our law enforcement. That's something we could do right away that would be very visible, it's not going to cost a lot of money."

"We're working very, very hard this summer with our principals on our avoid, deny, defend model," Scribner said. "It's something we want to expand throughout the school community, not only with administration, but also with teachers and classified support staff."

"You know there's sigma training, which is threat assessment training, which we are looking into and trying to get done this summer," Rogers said.

"We have a director of security who used to work for the Secret Service," Waldrip added. "I lean on him a lot because he still has connections with law enforcement and FBI and folks like that."

"We as a state, we as a community, we pay for our priorities," Scribner said.  "If this truly is a priority, then I would expect in the next legislative session,  that we put dollars behind this."

"To make a big dent in this is going to require a significant investment," Hinojosa added.

"I think everything in that report is something we'll review," Waldrip said.  "Ultimately, I don't know that we would invest in everything."

"It costs money," Rogers said.

"Every one of you has mentioned funding and the cost," Gutierrez said.  "These are recommendations. It's not set in stone. It does come down to funding. How reasonable is it to think, the majority of this will take place?"

"Texas is probably the most prosperous state in the country," Hinojosa said. "It was the last into the recession and the last out. We keep being told there is no money, but if there is a need, somehow we'll figure this out."

"Again, it's a great framework and we certainly hope this continues to be top of mind moving forward at the legislative level," Scribner said. "We're willing to implement whatever programs that are funded and that are realistic."

"We only have one way to do that and that is to go to our local taxpayers and ask for some assistance unless the state steps up," Rogers added.

A closer look at Governor Abbott's school safety plan can be found here.

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