Sunday Mornings with Rania: From the Federal Reserve to Houston Schools - A Look at Safety

About two years ago, I was asked to give a presentation at the Federal Reserve Bank in Houston. I remembered driving up to the facility and it was barricaded off in such a thoughtful way. Once inside, the security was overwhelming. I remembered the building had very few windows and before I started speaking, I learned more about the integral security measures that lined every inch of that facility. There was no way to get in and breach the system. There was no way to commit a burglary. Through very strategic efforts, crime was successfully kept at bay. It protected money and, my goodness, great amounts of money were invested to secure it.

But last week, by doing nothing more than taking a few steps, a monster gained full entry into a Florida high school, strategically pulled the fire alarm and relentlessly began shooting and killing precious student after precious student. Seventeen lives were taken and countless more were destroyed. Parents who said goodbye to their sons and daughters in the morning would never see them again. Quite honestly, the tragedy is too expansive to articulate; the loss too severe to sum up with words; the trauma, lasting well beyond these days, weeks and months.

As a nation, we watched in horror, we cried real tears and we began asking questions. How could this happen? Where did he get his weapons? Why did he do this? How did he gain entry into the school so easily? Was he truly mentally ill? But what about his strategy?

As students and parents marched, we immediately pleaded for gun control and stronger school safety measures. Everyone had a thought about what happened – deep, passionate thoughts –  and as a country, we began to argue about the safety of students at school, the structure of school buildings, whether assault rifles should be banned, mental health and, of course, politics.

We fought, we fought and we all fought again.

I sat and spent the last week taking it in, reading the stories, and thinking about solutions. One thing occurred to me: as passionate as we are all now, may I honestly ask: What were your thoughts about school safety the day before the massacre in Florida? Was it even on your radar?

For many, the answer is – no. And that’s okay. But for Crime Stoppers’ Safe School Program, it’s our number one priority 365 days a year. And it’s been that way since 1997. For more than 20 years, we have been studying school safety, every issue that poses a threat to our children, and offering solutions. Real solutions. This program is equipped to deal with:

  • A look at the physical structure of schools and safety weaknesses
  • All types of violence in and around campuses, including teen dating violence and more
  • Bullying and cyberbullying
  • Human trafficking
  • Drugs and alcohol including synthetic drugs
  • Terroristic threats
  • Mental health red flags and the nexus between mental health and crime
  • Missing minors
  • Active shooters
  • And so much more

To date, this program has reached well over 1,000,000 students in Houston and has helped law enforcement solve nearly 2,000 school cases and remove almost 300 weapons before they could be used against our students. It’s a powerful, powerful tool that we hope every school uses.

And it’s completely free.

We feel the broken hearts of those who lost their children, not just in Florida, but at Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, UT and more. We feel this pain. But we also know that there are so many risks that our children face on a daily basis that we must address, so we do so, accurately and productively.  We know that gun reform can take place today, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are still millions of guns in existence with thousands being bought and sold from person to person daily, and there are hundreds that are stolen daily. We need a multi-layered, multi-faceted approach that protects our children with the fullness of the picture in mind. The Crime Stoppers Safe School Program works toward that mission.

School safety may not be in your radar every day but I promise you, it is on ours. And while we wish we could snap our fingers and make every single school as secure as the Federal Reserve Bank, we know that that’s not possible. Still, our sincerest hope is that not one more child will lose his or her life for doing nothing more than showing up to school. And we promise to cover all the other issues in between, for the sake of your children and ours. Florida is a reminder that we can never stop working. 

To learn more about the Crime Stoppers Free Safe School program, visit crime-stoppers.org or call 713-521-4600.

About the author

Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston