Police, AISD discuss school safety, active shooters with UT student teachers

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Photo Credit: Evelyn Moreno | Daily Texan Staff

As a student teacher for Austin Independent School District, Francis Rodriguez said planning her school day doesn’t usually involve plans to hide from an active shooter.

“Our first thought isn’t necessarily, ‘What are the emergency procedures?,’ but I think now more than ever that’s probably the first question that needs to be asked,” said Rodriguez, a dance senior. “It’s, ‘How do I keep my students safe?’ first, everything else second.”

Representatives from the Austin Police Department, UT Police Department and AISD discussed school safety and emergency planning with student teachers from UT about how to react to emergency situations in the classroom. The discussion was presented by UTeach Fine Arts, a teacher certificate program that trains student teachers in AISD schools.

Rodriguez, the UTeach Fine Arts Chair, said UTeach Fine Arts had the idea for a school safety presentation from conversations her fellow student teachers had about the safety of their students and themselves.

APD Officer James Hyatt said in a presentation the best course of action to take is to develop an emergency plan and regularly practice it to avoid freezing up in a crisis.

“When your body is completely stressed, you start losing cognitive abilities and fine motor skills,” Hyatt said. “Not only do you have to have a plan, you’ve got to continue practicing it.”

Hyatt said awareness of one’s surroundings is key to an emergency situation.

“If you hear something that’s really odd, you probably need to pay attention to that,” Hyatt said. “Chances are it sounds exactly like what it is.”

UTPD Chief David Carter said student teachers, like professors and their assistants at UT, are responsible for their students’ safety and need to have emergency plans in mind.

“My philosophy is that you didn’t come to UT to learn how to protect yourself against an active shooter,” Carter said. “As teachers, we’re going to count on you to change the world, but you have to protect your students.”

“I think it’s on everybody’s mind everyday, because the question always comes up, ‘What if this were to actually happen in real time. What would it look like?,’” Rodriguez said.