As Texas lawmakers grapple with school safety, Dallas ISD turns to Winnie the Pooh
The Dallas Independent School District made national news recently after it sent some students home with a Winnie the Pooh-themed book on school safety. "Stay Safe: Run, Hide, Fight" teaches elementary students how to respond to a school intruder situation. The move comes as the state of Texas grapples with a response to school safety issues in the wake of last year's deadly shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde.
KERA's Justin Martin spoke with education reporter Bill Zeeble about the response from parents and the district, and the larger discussion about school safety.
Justin Martin: So, Winnie the Pooh is a kid's cartoon bear now, I think, a century old. But this book, called "Stay Safe: Run, Hide, Fight," that went home with some Dallas ISD kids last month isn't exactly what children might expect. They more likely know "When We Were Very Young" or the other book, "The House at Pooh Corner."
Bill Zeeble: Good point. Since Winnie the Pooh is now in the public domain, anybody can use the character. And this one is a children's book to teach kids what to do if a dangerous person invades a school. Guns aren't mentioned, but the book's published by a Houston-based security consulting firm, and the authors note it was written in collaboration with current police officers and classroom teachers.
Well, what I want to know is did parents welcome this way to teach a sensitive subject to their kids or did they reject it?
A bit of both. Several articles cite parents who were bothered that this book was sent home with their kids without warning. Dallas ISD mom Cindy Campos told the Oak Cliff Advocate that at the end of the day, she just wants to sit on the couch with her kids. But she also said, and I'm quoting, "Families in Uvalde can't do that. And this book shows me that."
What was the Dallas School district's response?
Well, the Dallas ISD apologized for not sending parents any guide or any context. It said it faces what every district in the country faces every day. It says, "We work to prevent school shootings by dealing with online threats and by hardening our schools. We conduct active shooter drills so students know what to do in case the unthinkable happens."
Speaking of the unthinkable, school safety is a giant issue now. I know the Texas Legislature just passed a bill that will put armed security in every school in the state.
And you're talking about House Bill 3, which is on its way to the governor's desk. It not only requires at least one armed security person in every school, it calls for campus safety inspections, a way to alert parents in the case of a school emergency, a new security division in the Texas Education Agency and more.
Correct me if I'm wrong here, but wasn't there a pushback about armed security at schools?
Yep, there was. Senators took that part out with support from people like Nicole Golden with Texas Gun Sense.
Golden: We do not support the expansion of guns into our most sensitive places, including schools, as a measure to prevent gun violence. It's not supported by data. And in fact, our concern is, is that at best it would be ineffective and at worst it could cause unintentional harm.
Zeeble: But lawmakers in the House, including Republican Representative Matt Schaefer of Tyler, insisted on armed security in every school, and he made this comment during an education committee meeting.
Schaefer: Bottom line is, when the entry points don't work and somebody is there and something's happening, you have to have some armed individual come address that situation. And time is lives at that point.
Zeeble: So the final version of the bill includes an armed security requirement. And Governor Abbott is expected to sign House Bill three into law.