Houston area ISD law enforcement and education experts discuss the role of school police

After the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and other individuals killed by police officers in 2020 — along with the protests that followed — the national conversation surrounding police brutality and the role of law enforcement has come to a head.



a group of people sitting in front of a crowd: In this photo from before the pandemic, Klein ISD Police Officer Christi Haggard sits with a group of students for the Leadership Academy program.


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In this photo from before the pandemic, Klein ISD Police Officer Christi Haggard sits with a group of students for the Leadership Academy program.


Virginia Rangel, assistant professor for the department of educational leadership and policy studies at University of Houston, said the conversation is causing smaller communities to analyze and question the presence of their own local law enforcement, including police within school districts.

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According to the American Civil Liberties Union, in 2019, 14 million students nationwide were attending schools with police but no counselors, nurses, psychologists or social workers; while an additional 10 million students were in schools with no social workers.

“Nationwide there are more school resource officers, or police officers, in schools than there are counselors,” Rangel said.

Social justice groups, including ONE Houston, Texas Appleseed and Children’s Defense Fund Texas advocate for less school policing and more counselors and mental health specialists in schools. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Texas schools have an average of 434 students per one counselor compared to the U.S. Department of Education’s recommended 250 students per one counselor and one social worker.

Rangel said that nationwide, ISD police originally had the same role in schools as they do in society — preventing crime and keeping students in check; and individuals’ perception of armed uniformed police in public spaces carries over to school campuses.

However, ISD police chiefs in the northwest Houston area said they are implementing proactive practices, such as trust-building with students, in order to avoid the escalation of situations. Klein ISD Police Chief David Kimberly said his force is trained, and trains other ISD police departments, to foster better relationships between officers and students.

“We’re just a highly specialized type of law enforcement and it takes a very special officer to work here,” Kimberly said. “We don’t just hire anyone. We’re very, very careful in who we’re hiring to make sure that their heart is pure.”

Origins of the ISD police

The Klein ISD Police Department was the first ISD police department in Texas, established and operating as of September 1982. Since its inception, and especially within the last decade, Kimberly said the ISD police department has evolved to take a relational, rapport-building relationship with students.

“It really takes it back to the safety side of it because we know that in previous serious acts of violence that have occurred on campuses, too often the conversation is, ‘I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t trust anybody,’ so we make sure that our guys are ready, open and available to talk with students,” Kimberly said. “The idea

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Boston University moving to ‘more rigorous enforcement’ of COVID protocols instead of ‘simply tracking compliance,’ school says

Boston University announced Wednesday it will start taking more rigorous action to ensure faculty and staff are abiding by the school’s health and safety protocols set up to stave off coronavirus transmission on campus.

Starting this week, so-called “unit leaders” will begin taking corrective action with individuals who are not following testing and daily health screening requirements, according to a statement from Dr. Jean Morrison, BU’s chief academic officer, and Gary Nicksa, senior vice president for operations at the school.

“We are moving from simply tracking compliance with testing frequency and daily health screening requirements to more rigorous enforcement,” the statement said.

BU’s announcement comes a week after the school said it would start requiring students, staff and faculty to show online badges in certain locations on campus indicating they tested negative for the virus following the completion of daily health screenings online, according to a statement from the university.

Campus community members must display their green “cleared” badge to be allowed to enter dining halls, the George Sherman Union and several other spaces at the school, the statement said.

The university implemented the public health rules after seeing an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases last week, with BU reporting its largest number of new coronavirus diagnoses among the campus community members since the final week of move-in in August, according to the school.

From Oct. 13 to Oct. 19, the university identified 23 students and 10 staffers who tested positive for the virus, data from the school’s daily coronavirus dashboard showed. No faculty members tested positive during that time frame.

The following week, from Oct. 21 to Oct. 27, another 32 students, two faculty members and seven BU staffers tested positive for coronavirus, according to the dashboard.

Stepping up its efforts to combat transmission of COVID-19, the university said Wednesday it is changing its health screening requirements, making it so all faculty and staff have to be screened on weekdays, regardless of whether they come to campus that day.

Screenings are not mandatory on weekends, holidays or regularly scheduled days off, unless campus community members go to the school for any reason on those days, the university said.

The school is also expecting to boost the availability of testing for faculty and staff across campus to address a shortage of appointment times at some sites, according to BU.

“It is critical that we treat the testing site employees with respect,” the university said. “We know it is a stressful time for everyone; however, several unfortunate interactions have taken place that have prompted the need for this important reminder.”

With support from BU Human Resources, unit leaders – managers, supervisors, deans and department chairs – are tasked with taking appropriate corrective action with faculty and staff who do not abide by the safety and health requirements, the university said.

The primary goal of the corrective actions BU will potentially be taking in the future is to reach “full compliance” with its public health protocols, according to the school.

“Taking corrective

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Is college football rolling the COVID-19 dice with scattershot mask enforcement for fans?

Texas A&M stadium staff workers tried to enforce a strict policy at the Oct. 10 home football game against Florida: Wear a mask or go home.  

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The rule wasn’t easy to impose on the limited-capacity crowd of 24,709. Even though A&M cadets got the message and covered their faces, many other sections of the stadium did not as they shouted and cheered during the Aggies’ 41-38 upset win against the Gators.

“Officially, 41 were escorted out of the stadium for refusing to adhere to face covering policy,” A&M spokesman Alan Cannon told USA TODAY.

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This is all part of college football’s problem with combating the COVID-19 pandemic, according to public health experts. There are different rules and levels of enforcement for different leagues and schools, sometimes even within a single stadium at a single game.

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Such a scattershot strategy has increased the risk for a virus outbreak from a sports event, they said. Even if it hasn’t happened that we know of in the USA, they say it could be just a matter of time, especially after virus flare-ups at several colleges and a superspreader soccer event in February that hammered Italy.

“It’s important to note not every sporting event would turn into a superspreader,” said Zachary Binney, epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University.

It’s a little like Russian roulette. It’s possible to attend a large gathering with lax mask enforcement and not have a noticeable outbreak afterward. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen the next time you try it.

“No, it’s evidence you rolled the dice and got lucky,” Binney said. “If you keep doing even moderately risky things again and again and again, you’re going to get burned. It’s like driving down the highway without a seat belt. Yeah, any single time you’ll likely get away with it, but it’s not a good life policy.”

Some schools and leagues have taken note. Some still miss the point even after COVID-19 has claimed more than 216,000 lives in the USA.

Scientists are scrambling to learn about the unknown risks and longer-term effects of the virus, including among young people who might not be physically affected by it immediately.

In August, Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina predicted that allowing fans at stadiums “would be a disaster.”

Since then, the range of risk-taking in college stadiums varies from cautious to cavalier even as COVID-19 cases surged in 41 states and flu season soon is likely to add to the misery.

Some avoid the risk

Some Power Five teams and leagues aren’t risking it and are subject to varying local public health restrictions. The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences said they will

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