I don’t know. That seems to be a regular thing.
Only a fence with holes and rotting wood planks stands between the back side of Coop Elementary School and the outside world. Last year, a man tried to scale it during recess, sending the school into lockdown and eliciting a police response.
Dana Castro worries that the shoddy fence, plus a glass door at the entrance to the north Houston school, may not be enough to protect her 9-year-old daughter and other students from future intruders. She wants the children and teachers to have an extra line of defense: a classroom door that remains closed and locked.
But a new mandate from Superintendent Mike Miles requires most educators across the district to teach with their classroom doors open during instruction time when school starts next week, a measure that some parents and teachers say peels back an important layer of safety.
“Let’s stop pretending there’s no danger and let’s start following the practices that have worked, which is a shut and locked door,” said Castro, who works for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Miles has said that the open-door policy creates a professional and collaborative environment that allows administrators to observe teachers and effectively coach them.
“Teachers shouldn’t have anything to hide,” he said. “People should be able to see what’s going on in the classroom all the time.”
Some exceptions will be allowed for classrooms with particularly noisy or unsafe locations or children prone to running away, according to the superintendent.
“We’ll be smart about this,” Miles said during a community meeting over the summer. “If there are doors that are open to the outside or right next to the gymnasium … we’ll make sure those doors remain closed.”
Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said she does not understand how opening doors promotes professionalism. Administrators can access all rooms with a key for observations, she said, and locking a door for safety reasons “does not mean you’re hiding anything.”
The union is looking into possible legal remedies to push back on the new measure, Anderson said.
“It’s really ridiculous that he is demanding that doors remain open in the culture we have in Texas where any and everybody can buy a gun,” she said. “And with the history we have in Texas … to put our teachers and students in harms way — why is it necessary to keep a door open? Why?”
The district did not respond to questions, but said officials may provide a comprehensive safety update later in the week.
I’m pretty sure every classroom I was ever in as a kid, all the way through high school, had the door closed. I mean, school hallways can be busy, noisy places, even during class time. And not to be macabre, but closed classroom doors are a security measure against shooters. I was on the PTA board at Travis Elementary in 2012, after the Sandy Hook massacre. We talked about that at length, let me tell you.
Be all that as it may, state law allows school districts to set their own policies about classroom doors, so Miles is within his authority here. What annoys me is that he just hands down these edicts without any discussion or apparent reason behind them. For a supposedly data-driven guy, he sure seems to operate on whim a lot. The lack of any response from HISD when asked about this is increasingly par for the course, too. Why did Miles change recess policies (before changing them back)? Why did he abruptly replace two principals right before school started? What’s up with his unverified and seemingly way off statements about central office staffing? Who knows? It’s what he does. And it’s obnoxious as hell.