In the 10 days since the Uvalde school massacre, much of the discussions at the state and national level have focused on school safety. Lawmakers, parents and others have called for various reforms on safety protocols in schools and police training for active shooter situations.
Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday directed the Texas School Safety Center to immediately start reviewing school safety plans.
Although much of the focus right now is on how to prevent another devastating attack on a school, the center also provides resources on other safety issues in classrooms, like bullying and fights.
Prior to the devastating attack in Uvalde, KPRC 2 Investigates found reported assaults and fights within schools were well into the thousands in recent years.
Analysis of Texas Education Agency (TEA) data going back to 2018 shows there were 13,850 reports of fighting and assaults in these seven school districts: Houston ISD, Cy-Fair, Pasadena, Conroe, Fort Bend and Galveston ISDs.
One of those thousands of reports comes from Gloria Ferman’s son, who goes to Fort Bend ISD’s Lake Olympia Middle School.
“That day, my son came home from school, he had visible injury markings around his head and face and neck,” said Ferman. “The teacher said they were horse-playing.”
Ferman didn’t believe the video showing her son being knocked to the ground was horseplay, saying “I couldn’t let it go.”
The school district investigate the incident further after Ferman continued to push for an answer. The investigation found Ferman’s son was “slapped, pushed and punched repeatedly” and what happened “constitutes bullying as defined by law.”
What’s fueling school fights, assaults?
Education experts say many students are re-learning how to interact in the classroom after the COVID-19 pandemic shifted many to virtual learning.
Zeph Capo, President of the Texas American Federation of Texas, says teachers and students are feeling the strain.
“There’s a lot of those instances that we’ve heard from teachers where they’re having to really walk through and be there for kids that are feeling a lot of different emotions,” said Capo.
But it’s not just on teachers and educators to resolve these problems, according to Brian Clason who is with the Texas School Safety Center.
“Now is the time for both sides, all sides, to lean in and have that tough conversation and say, ‘hey, we may not view education the same way, but violence is violence is violence,’” said Clason, who is also a former school principal.
What can parents do?
Clason says parents are key to helping schools identify problems that could lead to violence. Here’s what he says parents can do to help catch these behaviors:
- Get to know teachers, counselors, principals at your child’s school
- Don’t be afraid to be the squeaky wheel
Clason says the center’s website has information for parents on how schools conduct threat assessments, drills and required training, the types of hazards schools have to prepare for and what is the legal definition of bullying.
Remember, Ferman’s persistence helped turn horse-play into a finding of bullying.