By SHSU Staff
As the fall semester approaches, Sam Houston State University continues to prepare for more than 20,000 students to return to campus. On Monday, Aug. 6, a group of SHSU faculty and staff experts met with SHSU alumnus and Texas state representative Will Metcalf to discuss how to make all campuses safer.
In light of recent school shootings in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas, a growing question has become what can schools do to prepare for and respond to safety issues? A group of SHSU authors, led by Matthew Fuller, associate professor and director of the Higher Education Leadership doctoral program, are aiming to educate others on their integrated team approach to this problem.
In the wake of recent tragedies, Metcalf reached out to schools in his district as well as SHSU. Metcalf tasked SHSU experts with answering key questions on his mind, in order to be more informed when speaking about the subject of campus safety at the upcoming legislative session.
Texas Legislative District 16, which includes Conroe and the surrounding areas, is one of the fastest growing communities in the state. Metcalf is passionate about protecting schools, and contacted all six school districts he represents about their safety protocols and how to better implement them.
“The reason we are here today is this issue has been on my heart for quite some time,” said Metcalf. “I want to see my twin daughters protected, who are both headed in to first grade this year. I want to see all of your children protected. I am wanting all school districts to understand that school safety needs to become a priority.”
During Monday’s meeting, Fuller emphasized that preventative action and plans are just as important as having locks on doors and other security measures in place.
“Providing prevention education and training is key,” said Fuller. “Those other security systems are tools, and they are important tools, but tools are only as good as the people using them. You may have a security system, you may have a metal detector, but if you don’t help people get familiar with how to use those tools, then the tools might as well be paper weights.”
John Yarabeck, SHSU dean of students, is confident in the team in place at the university. Yarabeck stressed that setting baseline standards for actions that could take place at K-12 schools is key to preventing potential safety issues.
“We are empowered at this university to take action if needed,” said Yarabeck. “We have weekly meetings between the Students of Concern Team staff members, University Police, Residence Life, the Counseling Center, the Health Center, the Dean of Students Office and the Advising and Mentoring Center. Those groups work together to proactively intervene with students the campus community has expressed concerns about and that has proven to be very effective. I believe we need to explore ways for ISD administrators to create a similar type of team and empower them to make the decisions necessary, with respect to proactive intervention, with students of concern on their campus like we can at SHSU.”
SHSU is continuously putting these action plans into practice with events such as a full-scale exercise, taking place before the fall semester begins. Director of Emergency Management Services, David Yebra, emphasized the significance of having drills in order to create stability if something were to take place on campus.
“It is important to rehearse these practices and not just talk about them,” said Yebra. “If a plan is practiced and rehearsed, it becomes part of your memory bank. You can have a perfect plan in place, but if everyone does not know about it, or cannot execute it, then it is not nearly as effective. Communicating and rehearsing is just as important as having the plan in the first place.”
Fuller was encouraged when Metcalf first contacted SHSU several months ago, and also expressed his admiration during the Monday meeting.
“I think it shows a willingness to listen to experts in the field and be informed about different issues from different perspectives,” said Fuller. “That is what American democracy is supposed to be, our representatives listening to folks who deal with issues on a daily basis. It shows he wants to make a thoughtful and measured approach. I applaud him for that.”
Metcalf plans to turn this information into action in the upcoming legislative session which begins Jan. 8, 2019.
“We wanted to reach out to SHSU because of the phenomenal Criminal Justice department and Education department and Dr. Fuller has been wonderful to work with,” said Metcalf. “They were the obvious go-to school in the area on this issue and our goal is to continue to work with resources like SHSU and the Texas School Safety Center in San Marcos and develop legislation for next session.”
For more information on the publication visit: http://www.shsu.edu/today%