Dear Parents & Guardians,
I have been watching and listening to the discourse on school safety, both nationally and locally, and have had numerous conversations with parents throughout the district. It has been heartbreaking to hear the stories out of Florida, and it has been clear we need to focus on sharing with our community our safety protocols, while examining areas of improvement. To that end, in the coming weeks, we will provide more information about school safety, preparation and plans.
One aspect to running a school district that has changed significantly over the years is the impact of social media. While we use it to tell our story and connect to those within our district and well beyond our boundaries, social media often causes issues with rumors and fearmongering. Recently we had an incident at Hill Country Middle School. While the situation was handled appropriately, the subsequent social media posts and speculation has now led to the need for a district-wide follow-up communication.
A few days after the events in Florida, a student at HCMS was overheard making an alleged threat that included a specific date. The school responded, as did law enforcement, and the matter was appropriately addressed. Or so we thought.
When we have a threat at one of our schools, it typically comes from a student. Thankfully, our students are vigilant in following the "See something, say something" guideline and share any concerns either through a trusted adult or other methods like our Quick Report online tool. School administrators then – in no particular order, as situations differ – assess the threat, talk to students, remove the student who made the alleged threat, call law enforcement and then communicate what details they can to their school community. Counseling of all in our care is a key component during and after any report.
In the HCMS event, in particular, all of the above steps were taken, and law enforcement determined there was no credible threat. Consequences have been applied, and criminal consequences, if any, are determined by law enforcement.
Sometimes incorrect information develops. With social media, it can take on a life of its own – even if not true. When this happens, we work to determine if the information is true, the source of the information and whether to dispel the false information. In this particular event, we heard a rumor of a "hit list" and even saw a list of students was posted on social media. We tracked down the source of that rumor and it was completely false. We cannot respond to all rumors, but when necessary, we provide appropriate clarification while respecting individual legal rights to privacy, particularly when it involves a minor.
While more information on safety will be shared in subsequent communication, I can tell you this:
- Safety is a primary focus.
- We perform annual safety audits at all of our campuses/buildings.
- We constantly review and improve safety plans with campus administration and leadership staff.
- We utilize best practices recommended by the Texas Safe Schools Center and our local law enforcement.
- We will continue to evolve and improve our safety measures as we examine what options might be available.
Thank you for partnering with us through this, as we all struggle to find the best ways to ensure safe school environments in a world that, sadly, has seen too much violence in classrooms across the United States.
Dr. Tom Leonard