School safety forum brings together superintendents, elected officials, law enforcement

TEA commissioner among officials at school safety forum in Palestine
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Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 6:50 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2022 at 10:06 PM CDT
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PALESTINE, Texas (KLTV) - With the tragedy in Uvalde still top of mind and the start of school fast approaching, conversations about school safety are underway across Texas. On Wednesday, that conversation included lawmakers, school leaders, and law enforcement at a school safety forum held at Palestine High School.

“No longer can we have this idea that it’ll never happen to us,” said State Rep. Cody Harris (R-Palestine).

Harris organized the forum along with Palestine ISD Superintendent Jason Marshall. Superintendents from Anderson, Cherokee, Henderson, Navarro, Hill, Freestone and Kaufman counties were invited, along with local law enforcement and several state leaders.

“Uvalde is a very similar community in size to what we are here in Palestine, and many of the school districts that I represent,” Harris said.

Among the guests at Wednesday’s forum: Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, who outlined the agency’s three areas of focus after Uvalde.

  • Improving incident response
  • Behavioral threat assessment protocol
  • Facilities/access control

Also in attendance was Dr. Kathy Martinez-Prather, the director of the Texas School Safety Center. The center has been tasked with conducting school safety audits ahead of the students’ return to the classroom this August.

“The purpose of the audit is to identify any deficiencies or weaknesses that can be addressed present that to the school board of trustees and prioritize efforts moving forward and make sure everybody is trained,” Martinez-Prather said. “And review policies and procedures and communicate that out to students, staff and parents.”

The leader of the Texas Division of Emergency Management also addressed those in attendance and spoke on the importance of communication during an emergency situation. Chief Nim Kid said communication tops the list of failures in almost every post-event analysis of emergency situations.

“Can my radio talk to your radio? And then there’s the cultural part of operable and interoperable communications. Do I want to talk to you, do I want you to hear what I’m talking about?”

Wednesday’s forum included a school policy panel and question/answer session with elected officials.

“We’re all here right now,” said Harris about the value of having a forum like this. “I think that’s invaluable to our communities.”

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