SAISD community gathers for violence prevention summit | #schoolsaftey

SAN ANTONIO — Military veteran Carlos Antonio Raymond drew a big round of applause from a big crowd when he told the assembled volunteers that even though he is retired, he is still anxious to serve.

Raymond was one of many caring neighbors who gathered at Sam Houston High School for a think tank on community safety.

Credit: Sue Calberg

SAISD community gathers for violence prevention summit

Saying people need to work together to build a better future, Raymond said, “I am so happy to see now we have a dialogue and communication and how we can improve the city in terms of safety.”

Parent volunteer Elida Jimenez spoke emotionally about the need to support kids throughout their school careers, saying she is grateful for everyone who has worked hard to make Sam Houston strong.

“Our school is one in a million because we have each other as parents, community, teachers. Everyone here should show them we support them at any age,” Jimenez said.

In a part of town rocked by several violent gun attacks in the last few weeks, violence prevention and grassroots solutions were the focus, as people shared stories and resources to make a difference.

San Antonio Independent School District Board Member Alicia Sebastian opened the event by saying, “We are here in unity! We will ensure there is wrap around support for our community.”

Sebastian said after phone calls from concerned community members, she wanted to provide a chance for people to work together.

“As you all know, over the last few weeks, maybe months, we’ve seen an increase of very concerning behaviors. Violence and shootings and some of that stuff has spilled over to our schools,” Sebastian said.

Trouble on the streets, Sebastian said, needs to have multi-faceted solutions.
“Our intention is for public schools to be good neighbors. We extend our hand in partnership to you. And this is a two way relationship,” Sebastian said.
Representing District 2, Jolene Garcia said, “It’s part of our duty to work together because if we don’t collaborate then what happens outside the school comes into the school and we are not prepared,” adding, “We’re hopeful for what today will start and what we can continue to work on together.”

Advocates believe the first step should involve teaching how mental instability and violence stems from childhood trauma.

Rosemary Williams, with the non-profit Big Mama’s Safe House, said “That youth or that young adult that is really hypervigilant. They’re edgy. They’re angry. All of these things. We want to educate starting with adverse childhood experiences.”

SAISD Police Chief Johnny Reyes Jr. said his department continues to train and add services to respond to the everyday challenges.

“”We are now implementing stand-alone plain clothes mental health officers,” Reyes told the crowd, adding that more positive changes are coming when school starts up again.

San Antonio Police Deputy Chief Jesse Salame said he oversees the department’s community engagement team.

“Yes they are police officers, but they are looking for a holistic solutions to how we solve these really long-standing, deep issues that lead to the violence we have seen, that we haven’t seen in many, many years,” Salame said.

Salame said the effort he is most excited about is youth outreach, working inside the schools.

“They work with our Success Through Respect program which gets students used to interacting with police. It gets them to recognize us, that outside of the uniform we are human beings. We are fathers, brothers, sons. We’re mothers, sisters and we care about the same thing you do,” Salame said.

More police officers isn’t always the answer, Salame said, “I think that’s why a meeting like this is very important, because we’re talking about different ways to make the community feel safe.”

Most people in attendance agreed they were delighted by both the turnout and the commitment to turn talk into action.

“Everybody has to do their part. The safest communities are the ones that work together,” Salame said.

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