Beyond the Uniform

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At the start of the 2021-22 school year, many campuses nationwide once again hosted the lively chatter and footsteps of students and faculty returning after a long period of online classes.

In-person classes offered an opportunity to revisit the importance of school safety and in partnership with the local community — including her in the Rio Grande Valley.

Brownsville ISD is committed to working in tandem with its students and the community. With the belief that students are the district’s number one resource, Brownsville ISD strives to foster a healthy and safe environment where everyone can thrive.

The district police and security services there play a significant role in ensuring that students continually feel secure and protected. The school district believes in engaging with the community as a whole, not just the students. These leaders look to take a proactive part in students’ lives.

“We come from a very deep-rooted Hispanic culture,” said Oscar Garcia, Brownsville ISD chief of police. “When I was growing up, our grandma was at home with us. We learned very early that the nucleus of the family is very important. We strongly believe in that and have a strong commitment not only to our children in this community, but we also have a commitment to the parents that bring children to BISD.”

The police department is unifying the district and community through the Safe Schools Parent’s Academy. This biannual program is designed for those already actively engaged with Brownsville ISD as volunteers, partners, or supporters of the district. Topics include how to keep students safe and secure with how Brownsville ISD approaches school safety.

Another unique aspect of the Brownsville ISD police department is its training division, one of the leaders in the development and delivery training programs the school district offers to enhance school safety and security. The training division allows members of the community to become a Texas Commission of Law Enforcement (TCOLE) Peace Officer or TCOLE Reserve Peace Officer.

“We’ve been very fortunate to not only have that distinction here at BISD police department, but it also allows us to offer training and assist other agencies who need the mandated training,” Garcia said. “We have topics from active shooter and crime scene containment to cultural diversity training that’s required. It’s an honor actually, to have had that [TCOLE certification program] bestowed upon this department from the State Commission on Law Enforcement.”

Working so closely with the community and constantly training, there are inevitable changes and modifications to the programs to better accommodate students’ needs at any given time.

When COVID-19 hit, and while students were learning from their homes, training for the Brownsville ISD police department did not stop. Members of the department connected with one another virtually. It was burdensome, Garcia said, to learn how to navigate Zoom and other teaching methods. In spite of the difficulties, work continued, and operations returned to a more traditional format this past fall.

“Had we had some challenging times? Of course,” Garcia said. “Every school, every community goes through that, and we’re no different. We have many challenges. Who would ever think that we would work with a pandemic? (The pandemic) is so challenging, but we feel as a department our team is really focused, and they provide a tremendous support to our schools — and, more importantly, to our children.”

 

Faith Chua