School safety is too important to rely on assumptions or outdated plans. That’s why the Texas School Safety Center (TxSSC) is committed to providing evidence-based solutions to schools and school-based law enforcement throughout Texas.
The TxSSC uses its own research on school safety and gathers data on best practices from safety experts around the nation to develop more effective training and safety-planning guidance. “One of our goals at the TxSSC is to conduct research that informs practice,” TxSSC Director Kathy Martinez-Prather says.
“Every day our schools face challenges that have the potential to impede the learning process, and it is critical that we provide school personnel the most effective tools and resources they need to achieve safe and secure learning environments that allow students to thrive academically and socially.”
The TxSSC was created under Gov. George W. Bush and authorized by the 77th Texas Legislature in 2001 to serve as the central location for school safety and security information, including research, training, and technical assistance for all K-12 and community colleges throughout Texas.
Building safer schools takes more than locked doors and officers on campus. The TxSSC provides free training, resources and technical assistance to administrators, teachers and school-based law enforcement officers on issues ranging from effective fire or tornado response plans to plans for responding to campus violence and helping students cope with issues like bullying or tobacco use. Amber Owens, principal of Hernandez Elementary in San Marcos, makes sure her staff takes advantage of the free training every year, and it has shaped how the school addresses safety issues, documents incidents and plans for emergencies.
“The teachers regularly use the videos (on the TxSSC website) specifically for bullying and — believe it or not at an elementary — cyber bullying because there is so much social media out there,” Owens says.
Sarah McKenna, a fourth-grade teacher at Hernandez Elementary, says that parents, too, find it reassuring to see how the school maintains its safe environment. “Your ultimate priority is making sure your child is safe when they’re not with you,” McKenna says. “It’s great that we have that support right here at Texas State.”
For school-based law enforcement officers, working in a school setting is very different from traditional street or community policing. “In many situations, our school law enforcement officers are serving either in an educator capacity or a mentorship role,” Martinez-Prather says. The center provides free specialized training to meet that challenge for more than 1,000 school resource officers every year. Chief Teresa Ramon, of Judson ISD, says this training helps her officers to collaborate effectively with both students and teachers to solve problems.
“It brings us together, and we provide that safe network throughout the school district,” Ramon says. “It’s a win-win situation for all of us.”
Our research on bullying among Texas school students found:
The Texas School Safety Center has provided school safety training to over 50,000 Texas school personnel.
The Texas School Safety Center currently serves: