BISD counselors to use 'Sandy Hook Promise' curriculum

·3 min read

Aug. 15—The Brownsville Independent School District utilizes a curriculum that grew out of the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting to encourage students to speak to a trusted adult when they see something that worries them.

The "Sandy Hook Promise," as the free curriculum is called, came up in a response to a question from BISD Trustee Drue Brown during Safety and Mental Health Committee meeting this past week.

Sara M. Garza, director of BISD's Guidance and Counseling Department, said the district met with all 54 campus principals "on what is a behavior threat assessment, how to report what are the concerning behaviors, what to look out for. They were provided a power point to go back and educate their faculty and staff, and we included a slide on situational awareness where there are some short videos about where to use your own keen ability to notice what's happening in the environment around you, and so we are using the Sandy Hook curriculum, Garza told the committee.

"Last year our counselors all attended the Sandy Hook Promise online training," used it last year and will use it this year, she said. "That's what we're primarily using for our elementary school safe and trusted adult, how to identify in my school in my community who is a safe and trusted adult, because when I need to make a report, that's the person I'm going to go report it to," Garza said.

She said she would ask the board's approval to participate in the Brownsville Police Department's "Handle with Care" program.

"So if there's any student that witnesses a traumatic, a possible traumatic event in the community our city police will send us an alert, with very few details, for our school staff to follow up for that student and provide any necessary interventions in counseling etc," she said.

Garza said her department would pursue memorandums of understanding with two other Brownsville agencies "so that we can continue teaching child abuse prevention for our students and one of the things that we teach students in that curriculum is that when you identify a safe and trusted adult, and if they don't respond, then you find another safe and trusted adult who will respond until your needs are met, so unfortunately, that is part of the teaching but that is important because we don't only want them to learn to identify a safe and trusted adult, but we want them to know that response and assistance is coming for them, we'll be there for them to support them. So those trainings and those presentations should happen by the end, no later than the end of September," she said.

Garza replied "Absolutely" when asked if the Sandy Hook program is effective.

Board Member Minerva Pena asked that social-emotional learning get emphasis this year, which Superintendent René Gutiérrez said it would.

"I think one thing we've learned from the previous incidents, other shootings that we've had, active shooters in other places, is that the attacker or the shooter has always expressed mental issues, concerns, but nobody's done anything about it. There's always been red flags and if people could have done some interventions beforehand some of these incidents would have never happened," Gutiérrez said.

Trustee Daniella Lopez-Valdez advocated for close attention to the influence of social media.

"As someone who grew up with social media in middle school and high school and also was a victim to it before it was even a term" she said social media is "how a lot of thins happen. ... I just think that that's something that we don't think about as much, but the access to that information and how to monitor it is important and crucial that we teach our students how to navigate," she said.