TEXAS VIEW: A national model for engaging school safety

By Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Ray High School is setting an especially fine example for how to engage the topic of school safety, post-Florida.

Much credit is due, starting with the students. They wrote more than 2,000 letters to their principal in response to the Florida high school shooting. Ray’s enrollment is 2,117. So that’s pretty much the whole student body. The letters are a measure of their assertiveness, their awareness and their respect for the school’s leadership. If this is how they “act out,” they chose a mature, constructive way to do it.

People generally don’t go to the effort of writing letters that aren’t going to be read or acted upon. Apparently Principal Cissy Reynolds-Perez has succeeded in establishing herself as someone students can approach and trust. It’s a credit to her that writing to her was their outlet rather than class-disrupting sit-ins or walkouts.

Reynolds-Perez hosted a school district-wide forum at Ray on March 5 with Corpus Christi’s state legislative delegation in attendance to answer questions and take suggestions. Clicks to Reynolds-Perez for getting our lawmakers’ commitments to attend — and to the lawmakers for recognizing the value of participating and engaging with high school students. The 300 students in attendance had the rare opportunity to participate in representative government with state Reps. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, and Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. It’s not unusual for people to live their whole lives without that experience.

Reynolds-Perez’s actions compare favorably to the methods of the late civil rights hero Dr. Hector P. Garcia, who worked assertively but within the system to bring people together to solve problems. She and the lawmakers gave the students reason to believe that their concerns were heard and, most importantly, that it didn’t all end there. Hunter, specifically, urged them to maintain contact with him and the others. Reynolds-Perez said social studies teachers at Ray would help students submit more questions and suggest solutions.

The adults’ actions were a dignified contrast to the grown-up trolls who have been attacking the Florida student survivor-activists in various unseemly ways — from accusing them of being groomed impostors to saying that their teen brains haven’t formed sufficiently for them to be taken seriously. Some of those trolls are elected officials in positions similar to Herrero, Hinojosa and Hunter.

Ray’s mascot name, the Texans, should be noted because Texans identify closely with their guns. Any proposed solutions that emerge from the discussion are bound to undergo boisterous debate. We can’t predict what actions, if any, will result. But it was gratifying to see our students, faculty, administrators and lawmakers working together on it, constructively. They could serve as a model for the nation.