HOUSTON – Houston Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles, along with other community members and the Houston Police Department, held a news conference Friday morning discussing the return of Project Safe Start 2023.
The project is described as a partnership aimed at preventing crime and enhancing security for students and teachers as they start the new school year.
Miles opened the news conference talking about the preparation for the first day of school on Monday and how there aren’t any vacancies. He said the district is working with its bus drivers to ensure routes will run smoothly for kids being dropped off at school on time and dropped off safely at home.
The superintendent said they’re looking at its HVAC systems since temperatures will be extremely hot for first day of school. He said the district will put more water, ice, temporary coolers, fans at some schools, “just in case it gets too hot.”
While answering wide-ranging questions from reporters, Miles addressed criticism he’s received about his open-door policy.
Beginning this school year, teachers will no longer be allowed to close and lock their classroom doors.
“We’re not going to close the door put the construction paper on the slit of the window,” he said. “That leads to ineffective teaching, lack of accountability, and actually leads to some unsafe situations in the classroom.”
The Houston Teachers Federation President, Jackie Anderson, said Miles’ policy raises safety concerns.
“In Texas, anybody can purchase a gun,” Anderson said. “You turn 18, go purchase a gun. And with doors locked but propped open, it causes a great safety concern.”
The Texas Education Association requires all exterior doors to remain locked throughout the day.
“It is a safety issue. Had Mr. Miles spending his time going around these schools and seeing what they needed instead of turning libraries into prisons, he would know that,” Anderson said.
Miles said the reason behind the policy is to allow for cooperation among educators.
“Safety is important but so is the quality of instruction and providing the best instruction for kids provided the system of instruction that’s best for kids so we’re going to have to do both, so that’s why the doors are staying open,” Miles said.
He adds there will be exceptions such as if a classroom is near a gym or music room.
Anderson said all options are on the table, including lawsuit.
“If we get to the point where we see that the laws have been broken in the state of Texas definitely,” she said. “We are definitely looking at any possible option for remedy that we feel is causing an undue safe environment for our teachers and for our students. We’re going to explore every option.”
Retired Secret Service Member and CEO of M6 Global Defense, Michael Matranga says the superintendent is right, open doors promote a healthy climate and culture, but he says there’s a concerning trend that shouldn’t be ignored.
“If you look at statistics over the last two decades every single year, we have an increase in events whether they be assaults or actually assault behavior with a knife or a firearm,” said Matranga.
He suggests district’s like HISD find a healthy balance between safety protocols and administrative policies that keep everyone safe.
“If he says that the doors need to remain open, that’s his mandate, then let’s ensure that each campus has the proper infrastructure to lock the door so that it can easily be closed and locked automatically,” said Matranga.
Watch the full news conference below: