We are proud to share this guest post by John Martin, co-founder and co-CEO of SAFEtech, offering information for parents and caregivers to get involved in promoting school safety.
Choosing where your children should attend school can be very challenging—and at times overwhelming. Questions may arise, such as:
- What kind of curriculum does the school offer?
- Does this school have enough extracurricular programs so my child is involved?
- What resources does this school have to support my child’s social-emotional learning?
In addition to these questions, parents and caregivers are asking this one: Will my child feel safe at this school?
School safety can take many forms. There are issues such as physical bullying, cyberbullying, drugs, fighting, natural disasters. Recently, the growing culture of school shootings has become the largest and most concerning issue for parents.
Growing Culture of School Violence and the Impact On Student Learning
Tragically, we continue to see an increase in school violence across the country. According to data from the K–12 School Shooting Database, school shootings reached a record level in 2022. In the current academic year, there have been incidents at the Covenant Presbyterian School in Nashville and East High School in Denver. We are also approaching the one year anniversary of the Robb Elementary tragedy in Uvalde.
American psychologist Abraham Maslow is highly regarded as one of the most influential psychologists of the 21st century. His most prominent contribution was developing the hierarchy of needs model to explain human motivation. According to Maslow, in order to develop personal growth, achievement, and belonging, there must first be a sense of safety and basic needs that are met.
Having worked in public education for 15 years as a teacher, counselor, and administrator, I can confidently say that Maslow’s model is essential for student growth. We cannot expect students to learn in the classroom if they do not feel safe at school. If students do not feel safe or connected, what would give them motivation to attend school? How can students reach their full academic potential if they are fearful every time they step on campus? Sadly, I have met with students who are fearful, confused, or simply numb to school violence. The sad reality is that students today have grown up in this culture. It’s time for change.
Texas School Safety Initiatives
Recently, Governor Gregg Abbott signed off on a $105 million grant to support safety and mental health initiatives in schools. Additionally, Abbott allocated $400 million in funding to TEA to assist school districts in replacing or upgrading doors, windows, fencing, communications, and other campus safety measures. Another $17 million has been allocated to silent panic alert technology. The chart below shows the grant period and amount awarded.
Click on this link and search to find out if your child’s school or ISD has been allocated funds; or, scroll down to the section for Region 20 (starting on page 32) to scan a list of schools in the San Antonio area.
Parent Questions Surrounding School Safety
As my colleague Liza Gomez and I discussed in an earlier blog post, parents and caregivers can influence their schools to improve school safety by asking the right questions. Here are some additional questions that can reassure parents and promote positive change:
- What platform does the school use to relay emergency information to parents?
- Will I be notified when an emergency takes place?
- How often do emergency drills take place during the school year? Are staff members trained?
- Where is the reunification site? What documents are needed during a reunification?
- Are there opportunities for parents to meet with campus leaders to voice concerns?
- How do I report suspicious activity? What platform is used for anonymous reporting?
- Did the school apply for the school safety initiative grants? If so, what upgrades are being purchased?
- Is there mental health support for students throughout the school year? (Look at SB 179, relating to public school counselors’ work time.)
Prioritizing School Safety
The need for stronger relationships between parents and schools has never been greater. This happens through open channels of communication and transparency. Schools and local agencies are working to build partnerships to provide assistance in crisis situations. Mental health counselors and resources are greatly needed to support students through challenging times. Improving school safety is a continuous, evolving process that must be addressed with fidelity.
Transforming School Safety For a Brighter Future
As a former school administrator, my biggest fear was having a crisis on campus. Not because we lacked emergency plans, but because we were using outdated resources which lead to breakdowns in communication, confusion about student whereabouts, and procedural mistakes. Classroom teachers felt isolated and disconnected during these moments which led to anger, and even caused some to leave the education field.
Due to this, Liza Gomez—a former classroom teacher—and I decided to take action and formed SAFEtech in 2019. We created a web based platform for educators to manage crisis situations. We focused on alert systems that reach staff and first responders, streamlined student attendance, and created open lines of communication for all staff members in times of need. Our mission is to transform school safety for a brighter future.
A Call to Action
As we forge through the remainder of this school year, plans are in motion to make improvements for next school year. When it comes to keeping students safe, everyone is a stakeholder. Educators across Texas are working diligently to create safe, positive learning environments on their respective campuses. As parents, it’s never too late to ask questions, meet with school officials to address concerns, or get involved. Together, we can work towards a safer future for our students.
Charter Moms Chats
John Martin is a co-founder and co-CEO of SAFEtech. John brings 14 years of working in Texas public schools as a teacher, counselor, and assistant principal. He received his B.A. from St. Mary’s University, M.Ed. from Our Lady of the Lake University, and M.S. Ed. from the University of Pennsylvania. John believes student accountability plays a vital role in campus safety.
Read More About School Safety
- “From Advocacy to Action: Parent Partnerships Boost School Safety,” San Antonio Charter Moms, March 27, 2023
- “School shootings reach unprecedented high in 2022,” Naaz Modan and Kara Arundel, K–12 Dive, December 21, 2022
- “School Safety Information for Parents and Caregivers from SAFEtech,” Liza Gomez and John Martin, San Antonio Charter Moms, December 5, 2022
- “Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, Speaker Phelan, Senate Finance, House Appropriations Committee Chairs Announce Additional $874.6 Million For Public Safety Initiatives,” Office of the Texas Governor, October 27, 2022
- “Geekdom Pre-Accelerator Program Mentors Startups to Success,” Iris Gonzalez, Startups San Antonio, October 14, 2022
- “After Uvalde shooting, Texas leaders will spend more than $100 million on school safety, mental health,” Patrick Svitek, Texas Tribune, June 28, 2022
- “Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, Speaker Phelan, Senate Finance, House Appropriations Committee Chairs Announce Additional $105.5 Million For School Safety, Mental Health Initiatives,” Office of the Texas Governor, June 28, 2022
- “Fighting Cyberbullying in the Age of Distance Learning,” Maurine Molak, San Antonio Charter Moms, September 23, 2020