TISD creates safety plan focusing on students’ mental health

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TEXARKANA, Texas (KTAL) – Students across East Texas are heading back to class and school districts in Texas are taking extra precautions to keep students safe.

Texarkana Independent School District administrators said student safety is their top priority, and they’re constantly updating the district’s crisis response plans. Superintendent Paul Norton said he always keeps a copy close at hand.

“Parents drop off their most precious assets to us every day, and we want to make sure that we keep them safe, we keep them out of harm’s way and we give them a chance to grow and prosper in a very safe and productive environment,” said Norton.

In 2018, Texas lawmakers turned their attention to school safety after the tragic shooting in Santa Fe. School districts are now required to complete a threat assessment focusing on individual students and mental health.

In Texarkana, teachers receive specialized mental health training to identify students who may need extra attention or counseling. Norton said another big focus of the district’s safety plan is making students feel safe enough to speak up.

“Kids know when things are going on and we want to make sure that they communicate that to the appropriate adult, or to an adult, to where we can handle it and address it,” said Norton.

Students can also report possible safety issues through Tiger Watch on the district’s website and mobile app.

“Don’t ever be worried or concerned about being considered a snitch, because going through these anonymous systems prevents that from happening and that’s exactly why they’re in place,” said Norton.

They’re systems that help some of the more than 1,800 high school students feel a little safer on campus.

“It’s something that we all know could happen here, even if we don’t expect it,” said Jenna Williamson, a senior. “But, being able to see our police officers everywhere we go and seeing our administration outside whenever we’re changing classes, that makes me know that they are watching for us and making sure we feel as safe as possible.”

Administrators said they also hold drills monthly to practice safety response procedures.

Texas High School is piloting a program with QR codes that students can scan with their phones to set up private appointments with administrators as a part of the school’s open door policy.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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