Above, State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) speaks to a crowd gathered for a town hall on school safety at Goodnight Middle School on Tuesday. San Marcos CISD and San Marcos Police representatives also spoke at the town hall. Daily Record photo by Nick Castillo
School safety, mental health discussed at town hall
State Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood), alongside members of San Marcos Consolidated ISD and the San Marcos Police Department, provided the community an opportunity to hear about school safety and mental health during a town hall meeting.
Tuesday’s Safe Texas Town Hall took place three weeks after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 24 where 19 children and two teachers were killed.
SMCISD Director of School Safety and Security Doug Wozniak began Tuesday’s discussion by going over the district’s safety protocols and training.
“We kind of believe in a system approach to safety. What that means for us is we want to be good in a lot of different areas, not just one,” Wozniak said. “We don’t want to have really hardened schools but not have our staff trained; or have our staff trained and have missing elements as far as security. We believe that if you have good people that are trained and you have good systems that you’ll do really great things.”
Wozniak said training starts at the beginning of each school year where he and his staff, alongside SMPD officers, train SMCISD staff members in the district’s standard response protocol, as well as Citizens Response to Active Shooter Events training, self-defense training and stop the bleed training. He added drills are conducted once a month, either a fire, lockdown or shelter-in-place training.
Wozniak also spoke about the district’s school resource officer program where there are two SROs at San Marcos High School, and one at Miller Middle School, Goodnight Middle School and Lamar Personalized Learning Center.
SMPD Assistant Chief of Administration Bob Klett and SMPD Day Watch Patrol Commander Richard Mizanin provided information about how the police department handles school safety.
“A little bit about our SROs, we’re fortunate that we have a school safety center here because we’ve gotten almost every single available training that’s come out of the school safety center,” Mizanin said. “After the unfortunate incident that happened in Santa Fe, [Gov. Greg Abbott] handed down several mandates that needed to be focused on by all school districts. I’m proud to say this school district follows every mandate. So, we’re already up to speed. All of our SROs are [Texas Commission on Law Enforcement] state-certified, school-based law enforcement.”
Klett spoke on things law enforcement wants to see going forward, including various forms of grant funding.
“One of the things that we want to see is grant funding for Texas law enforcement for shields and breaching equipment, which will help us get closer to shooters,” Klett said. “We’re looking for grant funds to embed mental health professionals not only with our school district but we also want to embed mental health professionals with law enforcement and also with our 911 centers as they call in and seek out help.”
SMCISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Cardona spoke about the school district’s efforts to address mental health.
“I’ve been here this is year seven and in year one we started with teacher self care, so we worked with nonprofit Pure Edge who provides teacher self care for their mental health because we feel like if our teachers’ mental health is 100% then they’re going to be able to notice when students are in trauma. We’re also fortunate to work with a [school] board that supports whole child development. So, we have SEL counselors — social, emotional counselors — their only caseload is students in crisis and trauma.”
SMCISD Director Of Social Emotional Learning/Guidance April Chatmon added that it’s important to reduce the stigma around mental health.
“At the beginning of the year, we really try to be intentional about the training that we do for our staff,” Chatmon said. “We do trauma and mental health training every year because we want our teachers to understand what does this mean: mental health is how are you doing? Mental illness has a name — anxiety, depression. And we want to make sure we’re using the right language when we’re talking about it. So, we really try to spend time with our teachers and our staff about that part of it and what to look for, and also knowing that mental illness does not have a face. We want to make sure that we aren’t labeling but we are having conversations.”
Zwiener concluded the presentation portion of Tuesday’s town hall by providing a legislative update following the Uvalde school shooting.
“There is active shooting training offered through the ALERRT Center that is housed here at Texas State University. The Texas School Safety Center is doing good work training school resource officers and helping school districts develop plans,” Zwiener said. “We also have seen mental health funding increase modestly in Texas for the last decade, not significantly but modestly. That’s said, I think on all these fronts we are missing some options, and the place where no real meaningful action has taken place is in terms of who can access guns.”
The town hall wrapped up with an extensive Q&A between those in attendance and the panelists. To view the full discussion visit: https://www.facebook.com/StateRepErin/videos/1106565400214912.