Tuesday, November 13, 2018
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20160331 MendiolaIn the wake of several deadly school shootings this year, two of which killed a total of 27 people in high schools in Florida and Texas, the Sharyland Independent School District is being proactive in keeping its students and staff safe from the unthinkable.

Last June, the district’s School Safety and Security Committee, comprised of three school board members and several district administrators, started meeting once a month to discuss school safety and security.

“School safety already was a priority, but with the recent school shootings in Texas and Florida, it’s become an issue where we feel the need to discuss it at a more frequent basis,” Carolyn Mendiola, assistant superintendent for student services and community relations said. “We discuss what’s happening at our district and what we can do to make our schools safer and help our students in need of the social and emotional support to prevent them from getting lost or falling through the cracks.”

The meetings, which are not open to the public, are discussions between school board members Melissa Smith, Noe Oliveira and Keith Padilla and the district’s resource officer along with a few of the district’s central office employees, Mendiola said.

Mendiola said she has invited Mission Police Chief Robert Dominguez to their September meeting and have recently completed a safety assessment.

The assessment, performed by the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, had the deputy do a walk-through of each campus in the district to evaluate the safety of each school, which Mendiola said the assessment found to be very high.

Aside from monthly drills conducted at each campus, Sharyland is implementing active shooter training presentations for their staff that began this week. The presentations, performed by a deputy with the county’s sheriff’s office, teach staff members how to respond to an active shooter threat.

The committee is also meeting with campus administrators for “Youth Mental Health First Aid” discussions where school administrators are taught how to identify students with any disciplinary or emotional issues.

“They’ll recognize the warning signs of students at risk since they deal with them everyday,” Mendiola explained “They’ll see students who are suicidal, at risk of dropping out, suffering from substance abuse, depression or anxiety and then they will be approached so we can help them. We have to pay close attention to students exhibiting those signs. That’s our job.”

Mendiola said she plans to eventually have an active shooter drill later in the school year in one of its campuses to test out everything the district has implemented with the committee. She noted these drills take months of planning and should they hold one, it would be the first of its kind for the district.

“These incidents are so common now, we can’t just react after something happens” Mendiola said. “We need to be proactive. Thus the reason for frequent meetings, conversations to ensure we’re always in safe mode.”