HISD Reflects After Connecticut School Shooting And Plans Forward

As teachers and parents here in Houston struggle with how to talk to their children about the school shooting tragedy last week, the state's largest district says its safety plans are always being reviewed. The Houston Independent School District says it practices its crisis plan on a nearly weekly basis.

School officials reviewed security plans and made guidance counselors available for the start of school this week.

Jimmie Dotson is police chief of the HISD. He says drills are conducted regularly, and that administrators and teachers are aware of what to do in a crisis situation.

“I’m not gonna get off into the exact strategy of what we do, but what we try to do is to make sure that those drills that we conduct are the drills of that nature that occurred in Connecticut, which is an active shooter drill. So, all of our educators and teachers are aware of what information that they have and what they’re supposed to do.”

HISD’s chief counselor Dr Patricia Weger says it’s important that parents realize how children find out about events that may affect them.


HISD Chief counselor Dr Patricia Weger
HISD Chief counselor Dr. Patricia Weger

“The younger children will hear it very concretely. They may not realize that this happened very far away, and that it’s a very unusual happening in a school. The older adolescents have a lot of access to information, the social media, through watching TV themselves. And so, I think parents need to reach out to the older students, and ask open-ended questions about what they know about the situation.”

On Friday, she sent a handout that gave guidance to principals on how to help parents.

“The most important thing is we want parents to listen to their children. Listen to them non-judgmentally, and hopefully with a calm face, as children express their worries, their fears, their concerns about what has happened.”

She adds kids need to know that schools are the safest environment, but even so, anything can happen. Sam Sarabia is the district’s elementary chief school officer. He says parents talk to their kids about tragedies in different ways. He says some haven’t allowed them to watch television coverage of the shootings.

“So, our teachers really are prepared for students that come up that may have some information, rather than engage them in a conversation. It’s simply try to ask them quietly on the side, to ascertain how much do they know.”

He realizes that parents, teachers and administrators have also been affected emotionally by the shootings, but that everyone’s up to the challenge to create a sense of normalcy at school.