PISD updates district safety plan, creates mental health coordinator position

PRESIDIO — At last week’s meeting, Presidio ISD Police Chief Joel Nuñez gave a presentation to the school board about the district’s safety protocols, with a special emphasis on mental health. In the wake of a school gun violence epidemic, the state has put more stringent regulations in place — but Nuñez wanted the district to go above and beyond. 

Nuñez began with a brief outline of the school’s emergency management plan. Whenever there’s a shakeup in school leadership, the document must be reviewed and new signatories added — this year, the district saw the resignation of the superintendent and the middle school principal as well as the reassignment of the high school principal. 

The emergency management plan provides a blueprint for the district to follow in the wake of a wide range of emergencies — everything from bomb threats and chemical spills to bullying. Once the threat has been identified, the document provides easy-to-follow steps customized to Presidio ISD leadership and local coordinating agencies. 

Citing safety concerns, Nuñez said that the document would not be available online, but would be available to any concerned parent or community member requesting it. “We’re always trying to be transparent,” he said. “But we can’t give the bad guys a play-by-play on how we do things.” 

Nuñez then announced that the district would be creating a position for a full-time, district-wide mental health coordinator funded by federal grant money. In the wake of numerous school shootings around the country, school safety experts — as well as the Texas Education Agency — had come to see offering mental health resources as a form of emergency prevention. 

Instead of having campus-specific counselors who serve other roles in teaching and administration, this position would be solely dedicated to mental healthcare, lending students a sympathetic ear and connecting them with clinical resources if needed. 

Most importantly, the district mental health coordinator would be able to watch out for red flags signaling destructive behavior — and to continue keeping tabs on individual students to make sure their needs are adequately addressed. “We need someone who can keep tabs on each child,” Nuñez said. 

The coordinator would also be available to serve teachers and staff members dealing with difficult situations and mental health crises. “Teachers have needs and need to talk to somebody sometimes,” he said. 

Nuñez explained that many districts are opting for online resources and programs, but felt that having someone available to students and staff in person would be indispensable. “I personally didn’t think [having online-only resources] was acceptable,” he said. “Presidio has always been ahead.”

Ultimately, the goal was to be several steps ahead — rather than waiting for an emergency to happen. “If we take proactive measures on mental health, it could prevent a situation like Uvalde,” Nuñez said. 

School board president Iris Galindo expressed her support, both for the program and for generating more conversations about mental health within the district. “It’s great to encourage our students and staff to communicate if we see anything,” she said.