Education News

Still Making Schools Safer

The halls of many area schools will have extra visitors this week. Ministers and police officers will help keep the last days of school peaceful. Pat Hernandez tells us how the twenty year old program "Project Safe Start" gets students off to a safe summer.

It began with rash of violence on high school and middle school campuses, where students wanted to settle feuds on the last day of school. The Reverend Robert Jefferson is with Houston Ministers Against Crime. He says he got a call from the HISD 21 years ago.

Reverend Robert Jefferson with Ministers Against Crime
Reverend Robert Jefferson with Ministers Against Crime speaking about Project Safe Start.With him are members of the clergy and law enforcement agencies participating in the annual event.

“One of our great educators called for the ministers to more than just arrest children, but try to make our schools safe. Since then the Houston Police Department and the ministers and the school district formed a partnership where we could go into the schools. [It] takes a lot of work to know the children and to know what’s going on.”

Along with school district police, Houston police officers will be on hand to make sure things remain calm, both inside schools and in neighborhoods around the participating campuses.

Chief David Rider with the Fort Bend ISD police department says presence and education help make the transition into summer vacation possible.

“This is a good opportunity to get our community leaders, our faith based leaders into the school setting to talk to the kids, to give them some hope. They’re not going there trying to convert kids. They’re not going in there trying to preach the gospel to them that’s not their purpose. Their purpose is to go in there and provide support, provide a good positive role model for them, and that’s what we want to do as police officers.”

Houston School Board President Paula Harris says violence on campus is nothing new.

“I’m an HISD product and I remember kids wanting to settle up on the last day. I think it’s good for these ministers not to be only in schools at the end, but some of our kids, we can pray for them and it works before any problem start, and some of them you need to pray for them as they’re being driven down in handcuffs, because they cause a little bit too much trouble.”

HISD Police Chief Jimmie Dotson was with the Houston Police Department when Project Safe Start was launched in 1990. He says schools are the safest locations for some students.

“And so when those schools are no longer in session, the students don’t have any place to go as far as a comfort zone or a safe house. And as you know what our budget issues are, this summer some of our pools and safe places will be closed, so the ministers will be there to comfort them and maybe open up their churches to give them some safe haven where they can go to while parents are at work.”
Project Safe Start has grown to 45 schools in the Houston, Spring Branch, North Forest, Alief and Fort Bend Independent School Districts.