Over the past two weeks, Texas has had school shootings just outside Houston, in Arlington and near Dallas. It is no secret that the United States has struggled with school shootings in the past, especially within the last decade. The press kept the public up-to-date with details as news broke.
“The 25-year-old man shot through a locked, glass door at YES Prep Southwest Secondary,” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said. No students were hurt. Police initially identified the wounded as a school employee, but a statement from the YES Prep charter system later identified him as principal Eric Espinoza.
A week later in Arlington, Texas, three students and an adult were wounded in a shooting at Timberview High School. According to the Associated Press, Timothy George Simpkins was released after posting bond on Thursday, Oct. 7.
“An 18-year-old student opened fire during a fight at his Dallas-area high school on Wednesday, injuring four people and then fleeing before being taken into custody hours later, authorities said,” they said.
After these events, where does the safety of Whitehall students stand? According to high school principal Ethan Burgess, everything they can do is done to keep their students safe and they are equipped with services for students to utilize both on and off campus.
“Whitehall, like all other high schools in New York, has a comprehensive plan to deal with the social, emotional, learner. We have a team that is dedicated to ensuring our students have a safe place, in the building, to talk with a trusted adult, judgment free. We have a school psychologist, a social worker, two guidance counselors, the Dean of Students, and of course myself, the principal.
“Students and families have access to this team at any point during the school day and can be reached most off hours as well. We also have a partnership with CALEO Counseling services, that add an extra layer of support. CALEO’s genius is that students and families can see their therapist during school hours, this cuts down on travel time that will at times impede families seeking professional help,” he said.
Educator John Etu explained that even though he is a chemistry teacher, there is more than chemistry safety that he is teaching. He also values that the students know what to do in case of an unfortunate event.
“I know for almost every single teacher in that first week of school we’re talking about how to be safe in the school,” he said.
The R.A.V.E. Club, Railroaders Against Violence Everywhere, has the mission at Whitehall High School to educate the student body about all forms of violence awareness. The group also guides and provides help to students who feel as though they may be a victim of violence.
“Clubs are a major factor in keeping students on the right track. Clubs offer students an opportunity to focus their attention on something productive rather than negativity that may be surrounding them. It also allows students to develop fellowship with their peers in an atmosphere of their choosing,” Burgess said.
Something Etu mentioned is that Whitehall strives to keep all students included in activities. Rather than having students feel left out, educators at the high school encourage students to be kind to one another as well as reaching out to people who seem upset or need someone to talk to.
“I think having real conversations with students, we are really encouraged to try to make connections with every student. If you see a student that has been struggling or if you see a change in behavior, we have a really awesome social services team in place and it’s one I really trust and believe in,” he said.
Principal Burgess is forming a Parent Advisory Team. This group would be meeting with him once a month. He hopes that topics such as school shootings will be discussed at those meetings.
“This team will meet with the principal once a month and discuss issues outside of the curriculum, but still have a direct effect on the success of the student body. I will be sending a signup form at the end of this month. Any parent who would like to be on this committee is welcome,” he said.