Local

Hundreds pack into Harris County Sheriff's Office town hall meeting to discuss school safety

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The shooting on the Lone Star College campus comes at a time when many parents and students are concerned about their safety at school. On Thursday, Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia held a town hall meeting to ease some of those fears.

San Jacinto Community College north campus' auditorium, which holds up to 300 people, was standing room only during the meeting. There were parents from large school districts to a nurse from a small private school who were all asking the same question: How will you keep my kids safe?

The issue of school safety affects Ebony Harris in just about every aspect of her life. She's a paramedic student at San Jancinto Community College and a mother of two.

"Now we're going through a big training in class and in work with all the different shootings that's going on," Harris said.

Harris was among hundreds who watched a school safety video followed by an opportunity to hear from law enforcement, community leaders and schools officials from the elementary level to college. There were even representatives from Lone Star College North Harris campus, where three were injured in a shooting on Tuesday.

"You think we may never use it and it may never happen at your school -- I never thought it would happen at North Harris either," Lone Star College-North Harris President Dr. Steve Head said. "While we didn't have an active shooter, we weren't sure exactly what was happening."

Sheriff Garcia says the town hall was scheduled following the Newtown, Connecticut shooting but became even more timely this week.

"The ability for us to prevent anything similar to Newtown rests entirely on the public's willingness to speak up," Garcia said.

Some parents have discussed plans with their children.

"If anything happened, she has a phone. She will text me or something," parent Roselia Urenda said.

Attendees also were able to speak up, and they asked about everything -- from general questions to specific incidents on campuses to controversial ones, like whether members of the panel support arming teachers.

"I see the benefit of a teacher having a gun, but I also would not feel safe with a teacher having a gun because, what if it's a bad day?" parent Portia Washington said.

Panel members who tackled the question about arming teachers all said it's a concept they do not support.
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