Region One is part of a 20-region state-wide system designed to assist public school districts in Texas. Although the focus is usually on student performance and district efficiency, in light of the May 24 mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, the executive director is trying to be proactive.
“I think, in general, schools have gotten more and more attune to this, but I don’t think we can ever pay too much attention,” King said.
King is a newly retired educator of 42 years and started his role as Region One’s executive director on May 2. He has lived in Mission most of his adult life and is a former Mission CISD educator as well. King was a teacher and coach turned assistant principal at Mission High School. He then became the first principal at Cantu Elementary.
In his 42 years as an educator, he said it’s surreal to see how times have changed regarding school safety and the increase of shootings.
“It’s challenging. These are events that are happening in churches, theaters, grocery stores, shopping malls — they happen everywhere,” King said. “But we have a duty to the community, to the children, to the parents that we do everything possible to make sure that it does not happen.”
By law, every school district must have emergency plans to include active shooter drills. Additionally, the districts must go through a safety audit and turn it into the Texas School Safety Center. And on June 6, Governor Greg Abbott ordered all school districts to undergo Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training. In a letter written to the ALERRT program Executive Director Pete Blair, Abbott states that training must start before the next school year begins.
But part of what King wants to accomplish at Region One is an ongoing meeting schedule coordinating with all the school districts to find best safety practices. King wants to identify the needs of each district to work on prevention and better prepare them in an emergency.
“I think it’s a case where we have no choice,” King said. “I guess you could say that Region One has a choice to engage, but our job is to…assist the schools to be successful. And safety is a key component, and saving lives is a key component.”
For at least the last decade, but especially since the shooting in Uvalde, Texas leaders have been pushing to arm more school employees, either through school marshals or law enforcement officers within the district. This pressure is despite the fact that Uvalde CISD has its own police force, and they still did not prevent the shooter from entering the campus or firing his weapon. Additionally, a recent survey of 5,100 members of the Texas American Federation of Teachers revealed that 76 percent of those K-12 teachers do not want to be armed.
“Very few people, I would say almost nobody, went out to be a teacher with the idea that ‘I need to be thinking about a school shooter situation’ or something like that,” the Region One executive director said.
King reflected on how the world has changed since he was a boy in school and how it will only continue to change — schools, society, law enforcement and gun laws. Everybody is going to have to adjust and adapt, he said. But his goal at Region One is to be as helpful as he can with organizing and setting up opportunities for everyone to learn from each other.
“We can’t just wait to see what somebody else is going to do for us. We have to do everything we can do for ourselves. And then from there, anything the state can bring to the table, anything the federal government can bring to the table, so much the better,” King said. “And we can have our opinions about how much they should help or what laws they should pass, but we can’t let that get in the way. We can’t sit around pontificating about what somebody else should be doing. We gotta do everything we can do.”