Post Shooting: Classes To Resume At Santa Fe High School
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It's going to be a tough day for students and staff at Santa Fe High School in Texas. They go back to class today, the first time since a gunman killed 10 people at the school earlier this month. I'm joined this morning by Cissy Perez. She's a member of the Texas School Safety Center board of directors and a principal at Ray High School in Corpus Christi.
Dr. Perez, thank you so much for coming on the program.
CISSY PEREZ: Thank you for shedding light on this very important topic.
MARTIN: I know you can't speak directly to the experience of teachers and students in Santa Fe, but you are responsible for hundreds of young people who are trying to cope with the reality that this kind of violence affected kids who are like them, could affect them in the future. What are you hearing from your kids?
PEREZ: Well, right after the Parkland shooting, I noticed that there were many people saying, oh, it's another school shooting. And I really wanted my students to be aware that these were real people, real teachers, real coaches. So I had them write letters to me - it was like an assignment - to let me know what their thoughts were about this and if they had any suggestions for me.
MARTIN: What'd they say?
PEREZ: And they did. They did. They had suggestions like an app that students could download and parents could download, and we could have all eyes on entrances, kind of like the Ring app that's very, very clear because our cameras are so poor. Also, they suggested that we need more counselors. That came up quite a bit because our counselors are so inundated with academics or trying to get our students graduated that it's very difficult for them to have time to recognize warning signs in students.
And so I've been bringing up about staffing ratios. We may have no police in an elementary school or one police in an elementary school. We may have one counselor for 500 students. And, I mean, that is almost impossible for counselors to recognize warning signs. And they also talked about that they need some help, like a therapy box or some sort of way for them to let out some of their anxieties. One...
MARTIN: It's so interesting that they got specific with you, that it wasn't just an opportunity for them to have an emotional catharsis, which I imagine...
MARTIN: ...Was also necessary, but they had pragmatic recommendations.
PEREZ: Yes. Well, we have what's called T-Time. It's our homeroom time. And many times, I will assign them a writing assignment for them to write a letter to me because I need to hear their thoughts. That's the only way a school can run effectively is if, really, a principal is in tune with their students. And so they gave me some very, very real-type solutions. One of the students wrote, you know, that, you know, many adults just attribute it to teenage angst and that instead of getting him help, they got him expelled, when referring to the shooter at Parkland.
MARTIN: I mean, in the seconds we have remaining, how has this violence - how have these mass shootings at schools changed the way you've approached your job, if at all?
PEREZ: Well, every time I step foot into the school or I'm driving up to the school, that is my thought. And it is my worst fear. And that would be any principal's worst fear. But our students feel the same way. And they wrote that as well - that, you know, it's still in the back of their mind. Anytime they hear something, they wonder - is that a gunshot? And that's just not a healthy way, you know, for our students to be living right now.
MARTIN: Cissy Perez is the principal of Ray High School in Corpus Christi, Texas. Thanks for your time this morning. We appreciate it.
PEREZ: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE CALM BLUE SEA'S "NOW THOSE ASHES ARE AT THE BOTTOM")
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