With the recent school shootings in Florida and Maryland adding to the already long list, the issues of school safety and gun control are brought to the forefront again.
On March 20, El Paso Community College hosted a Student Information Forum on School Safety at the Administrative Services Building.
OLIVIA BELCHER/ TEJANO TRIBUNE
(L-R) Jose Rodriguez, Texas Senator, Andrea Porras-Portillo, SGA President,
Kristen Ahumada, UTEP SGA President and Samantha Ortega, Student Alliance President.
The event was composed of a student panel answering various school safety questions specific to their institution followed by a group discussion that involved the audience.
The event began with an introductory speech from State Senator Jose Rodriguez, stating how important he feels students are in solving the current problem of violence that the nation is experiencing.
He empathized how vital the issue of campus safety is and expressed his desire to want to hear what the students of El Paso have to say.
Rocio Perez who is a Senator At Large for UTEP, as well as an intern at the Legal office of Senator Jose Rodriguez, planned the event and led the panel questions.
The student panel was made up of three high school students and two college and university student government association presidents.
Among them were Emilio Posada, chair member of Student Council at Burges High School, Andrea Porras-Portillo, Student Government Association President at El Paso Community College, Kristen Ahumada, Student Government Association President at University of Texas at El Paso, Samantha Ortega, Student Alliance President and class officer at El Paso High School and Sofia Perez, Student Council member at Tornillo High School.
Each panelist was asked questions regarding safety at their individual institution. They were asked what they feel needs to be changed, what safety procedures are already in place and how they think gun laws should be handled.
Students conversing at the EPCC Administrative Services Center about school safety.
Following the panel discussion, the audience was encouraged to share their concerns and ask the panel additional questions.
Members from the audience asked the panelists to expand on a few of their views as well as voice their personal opinions on the questions that were previously asked.
One of the audience members brought up a possible solution they had read about in an article that they called ‘a gun restraining order.’
If a person shows signs of mental instability or of being a danger to themselves and others, exhibits excessive anger or threatening behavior, this would take away their gun privileges for a period of time in order to avoid irrational decisions made with their firearm.
This was an idea that few people were familiar with. Erik Otto, who is pursuing his master’s degree in Sociology said, “I think it is a good idea and I had no idea this was a possibility prior to this event.”
After the open-floor questions concluded, the audience was split into two groups to intimately discuss the current crisis in school safety and possible solutions. Each group came up with a list of actions that they felt could help address the problem.
Each group had one person present their ideas to the rest of the audience and explain how they would be effective. One of the suggestions was training dogs to attack an armed intruder and also serve as a comfort device for at-risk students.
Rodriguez expressed his approval of the event as he said, “I think it was very beneficial.
There were a lot of interesting points of view that I hadn’t heard of before and I do think it will lead to a change in the way we look at this problem in El Paso because I can see that they want to focus on educating people about the issue, not only the students but the community at large. People need to have awareness before they can take action.”
Otto also felt the event was beneficial because, “we are openly talking about it and thinking of solutions. There are also brilliant young people up here who are engaged and not just sitting around but trying to make a change, so I do think there is hope.”
School safety is a prominent priority and responsibility for all institutions and El Paso schools are taking the initiative to make campuses a safe place and not a place of fear.
There will be a follow-up discussion forum that will have more guests and possible proposals in mid-April of 2018.
For more information on safety and other safety events at EPCC call 915-831-6444 or visit www.epcc.edu/officeofriskmanagementandsafety.