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Chairman Turner- School Safety Is Everyone’s Problem

By State Rep. Sylvester Turner

Courtesy of Houston Chronicle

May 9, 2012

Two female students were captured recently on cellphone video fighting in the stairwell of a Fort Bend ISD high school in front of  dozens of students who had shown up ahead of time to watch. Just a few hours before, the mother of one of these girls told an assistant principal that her daughter would be beaten. The principal said he would take care of the threat, but did not. One girl put a lock in a sock and beat the other girl, as she had threatened to do, sending her to the hospital for treatment.

From what I observed on the video, no one intervened – not a teacher, not an administrator and not one of the many students who showed up for this entertainment. While this horrific video has captured the community’s and the media’s attention, it is just the latest in a series of violence, bullying and intimidation affecting our children at their schools.

In January of this year, a student fight in the cafeteria at Andy Dekaney High School in Spring ISD escalated into a melee involving dozens of students. Also in January, a North Forest High School student brought a gun onto campus and shot and wounded another student.

Last year, a 6-year-old brought a loaded gun to his class at Ross Elementary. He and two other students were injured when the gun fell out of his pocket and discharged. Just a few days ago, a 14-year-old student was shot by a Pasadena ISD officer when he confronted the student in an apparent burglary.

Two dozen Houston ISD school bus drivers recently called for more discipline of rowdy students. The drivers say the students carry weapons, fight each other and even attack the drivers themselves. This past week a South Houston High School student was accused of filming another student in the bathroom. He planned to post the video on Facebook.

And before we congratulate ourselves that at least no child has died, I ask you to remember Asher Brown, the Cy-Fair ISD eighth grader who committed suicide in 2010 after his classmates bullied him for years. Asher was 13 years old.

Community leaders and elected officials from Harris and Fort Bend counties must speak out against these senseless acts of violence. Everyone has a role in keeping our children and communities safe. Bringing weapons to schools, engaging in disruptive behavior on school buses, bullying and fighting on our school campuses, breaking into homes and cars, are not acceptable behaviors in our communities. Our children need to know that we love them, we support them, we will be there for them, and that we will work to make our schools and neighborhoods better for them. But they also need to know that bad behavior will not be tolerated.

All of us must be held accountable. Parents must make it clear that bad acts will not be tolerated, that not only should children not  engage in a fight, they should not stand idly by and watch it or cheer it on. Administrators and teachers must take every step to prevent conflicts, especially when they are warned ahead of time. The inside of a school should be a safe haven for children. And the community must fill in the gap when parents and schools may be lacking. Here is how everyone can and should help:

In the final weeks of school, everyone should be on alert for any signs of problems on our school campuses. I applaud the Ministers Against Crime for their presence at schools in the closing days of the academic year.

Schools must be adequately staffed to ensure the safety of their students. If not, administrators should reach out to constables or  other law enforcement for help.

Parents and students need to report potential acts of violence to teachers, counselors or administrators and they should have  confidence that their concerns will be taken seriously.

I have asked Speaker Joe Straus of the Texas House of Representatives to take a serious look at school violence, both during the interim and during our next legislative session, and he has agreed.

I have asked the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency to investigate the latest violent incident at Thurgood Marshall High School to determine what happened and how we can ensure that our schools will be violence-free the remainder of the year.

The issue of school violence and bullying affects us all. In that spirit, I look forward to partnering and working with other community leaders, elected officials, religious and business leaders. Let’s create an environment that is safe for all our children.


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