Dwight Powell & 6,000 Students Talk School Safety at AAC

DALLAS – In the wake of the alarming number of jaw-dropping school shootings across the country this year, Dallas Mavericks forward Dwight Powell was recently part of a group of engaging speakers trying to come up with a solution to the disturbing problem.

Approximately 6,000 Dallas Independent School District middle and high school students met at American Airlines Center to learn about a See Something, Say Something, Do Something program that will help them know what to do in case of a shooting at their school and how to prevent it. Numerous area leaders spoke at the event, which was also attended by DISD teachers and administrators and presented by the International Association of Venue Managers, American Airlines Center and Dallas ISD.

The program focused on behavioral analysis, crowd dynamics and situational awareness in response to recent school shootings, with the content designed specifically for the pre-teen and teenage audience members.

The Mavs Dancers and ManiAACs were on hand and provided some entertainment to the assembled crowd, while Powell used this platform to offer his thoughts on the importance of providing a safe and comfortable environment for the children while they’re at school.

“There’s nothing more important than the children in our community and their safety,” Powell said. “I was honored to team up with Dallas ISD to introduce the first-of-its-kind program – See, Say, Do Something — to talk about emergency situation protocols.”

Craig Miller, the chief of police of the Dallas Independent School District police department, said while adults clearly play a large role in helping curtail school shootings, the burden also falls on the shoulders of the impressionable students. He specifically mentioned the May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School where a lone gunman killed 10 people – eight of them were students – and injured 13 others during a violent rampage.

“I think events like (See, Say, Do Something) are crucial to remind us, especially in light of what just took place in Santa Fe, of how really important it is for our kids here in the Dallas ISD to understand that they’re really the key to this,” Miller said. “I can put police cars on the street and I can put up metal detectors and I can put up cameras – all the physical hardening of things that need to be done. And the teachers can do teachings and the administrators can oversee the operation, but it’s the kids that have the intelligence.”

“They’re the ones that know other friends that are threatening, they’re the ones that know other friends that are distraught, they’re the ones that know of other kids that are contemplating suicide and/or hurting themselves or someone else, and that’s the information that we’ve got to have. As valuable as what we think we are, it’s the kids in the schools that see it day-in and day-out. . .they’re the ones that know.”

The shooter at Santa Fe High School was a 17-year old student who wore a trench coat to school on what was a warm day. For Lucky Lawhorn II, an 18-year senior at Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, that would have been cause for concern.

“What’s going on in my mind from experiences that I’ve had is that he’s probably a shooter or he’s probably going to do something that he has no business doing,” Lawhorn said, referring to the trench coat. “And that would make my awareness go up.”

One of the event’s speakers, John Skillestad, said something as mundane as speaking to someone and being courteous to them can go a long ways towards remedying a potential violent situation.

“That’s why I say, meet people,” said Skillestad, who is a supervisory special agent with the FBI. “Meeting somebody you don’t know can brighten their day, and I think the little things can go a long ways to resolving that.”

“I know some people are fearful that if I tell on someone then maybe he’ll target me. Well, what we say is how do you know if you’re not already a target? Or they may say, ‘Well, I wanted to report it, but I didn’t know who to report it to.’ ”

Dallas County judge Cheryl Lee Shannon of the 305th District Court impressed upon the students not to make threats on any kind, especially when it comes to school shootings. She told the audience of a 12-year old boy who made such a threat and is now suffering the consequences.

“It was really important to me that young people understand that what they say matters, and I think sometimes we just think we can just say anything and just kind of pass it off and it’s OK,” Judge Shannon said. “But what we say matters as much as sometimes what we do.”

Alexandra Brooks, a 17-year junior at Woodrow Wilson High School, said school safety is paramount and that safety shouldn’t be on their mind when they’re at school trying to learn. And she’s also become a quick proponent of the See Something, Say Something, Do Something initiative.

“I like to think that events like this can help prevent (the tragic) events that have happened in the high schools across the country from happening in the Dallas ISD,” Brooks said. “I think the overwhelming message is while other people do have a responsibility and our elected officials do have a responsibility, we as students in the Dallas ISD do have a responsibility to ourselves and to our classmates to do what we can to help prevent these things.”

Speaking matter-of-factly to the students and teachers gathered at American Airlines Center, Powell stressed the long-term importance of having programs like See Something, Say Something, Do Something and its overall impact.

“It’s unfortunate that we live in a time where this is being taught to our students,” Powell said. “But safety in schools is important and in no way should that be compromised.”

While Lawhorn was definitely glad to get out of school for a few hours to listen to the speakers, he also was anxious to get back to school so he could share the messages he received with his classmates.

“The overwhelming message to me is always be aware of your surroundings because you don’t always know who’s disgruntled or who’s ready to, quote unquote, pop off,” Lawhorn said. “Another thing is also the See, Say, Do Something (program is vital) because if you see something you have to say something, and if you say something you have to do something.”

“Also, always be close with your friends and always be a friend to the friend-less, because you never know who doesn’t have friends and who’s having a bad day, because that bad day could turn into a bad day for everyone else. So you’ve always got to be aware.”