Virtual School Safety Forum 2020 Benefits from Local, National Interest from Educators, Law EnforcementLeave a comment
October 23, 2020 by HCDE-Texas
As the School Safety Forum went virtual for a first time this Oct. 16, more than 250 participants throughout the nation took advantage of the opportunity to network, collaborate and gain new information about safety initiatives for public schools.
Sessions targeted topics ranging from racial equity to human trafficking to mental health to cybersecurity. The significance of “overcommunicating” during COVID-19 was a repeated topic of four school district police chiefs who served as panelists in a “Chat with the Chiefs” preconference session Oct. 15. Messages from the chiefs also emphasized nurturing relationships with students, staff and families and proactive steps to address community-police relations.
“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” said Chief David Kimberly of Klein Independent School District.
The summit was hosted by Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Superintendent James Colbert Jr. gave a Texas welcome to virtual attendees, many of whom logged in from out-of-state locations like New Jersey and Virginia.
Colbert touched on cultural responsiveness as schools are back in session this fall.
“Race relations in our country went dormant,” he said. “We need to address them—formalize strategies through honesty for improvements in order to meet student needs.”
Popular keynote Michael Dorn of Safe Havens International discussed emerging school safety concerns which include cyber threats, increased calls for accountability and conflicting perspectives relating to the role of police in schools and restorative practices. Dorn also presented real-life school violence scenarios to help attendees brainstorm possible outcomes and solutions.
Afternoon keynote Carly Posey shared her story as the mother to two children who attended Sandy Hooks Elementary School when an armed intruder made his way into her son’s first-grade classroom, killing his teacher and a classmate. As the shooter stopped to reload, her son and with nine other students, escaped. Her daughter hid in a closet in the school art room. During the mass shooting in 2012, 28 died and two were injured. Posey is now a national advocate for school safety and travels the country to address preparedness.
Co-host Harris County Sheriff’s Office supplied the session “Online Predators” with Gary Spurger, high tech crimes manager. Spurger gave an overview of online safety for students, focusing on protecting them from predators.
Unbound Houston’s Christa Mayfield presented startling statistics on sex trafficking in teenagers in Texas as 79,000 students are victims of trafficking each year. Social media opens additional avenues for human trafficking, Mayfield explained. Large cities like Houston allow for trafficking opportunists because of our large population and ease of mobility because of multiple interstates.
For more information about upcoming workshops offered by the CSSS, go to www.hcde-texas.org/safe-and-secure-schools.