Schools in Texas evaluate gun, safety policies

With horrific images of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary still fresh in minds, the topic of guns and safety in schools is gaining momentum as discussions at local and state levels continue, including whether or not there is a need for armed personnel. Recent incidents like these have forced many Central Texas public schools, as well as colleges and universities, to evaluate their current policies. The Temple Independent School District held a meeting Jan. 29 in order to talk about what other districts were doing, as well as to review their own plans. Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Dr. Scott Moger said the purpose was “to review security plans, to answer any questions our board had and to give them relevant information about which school districts around the state have actually passed a policy.” As far as allowing administration or teachers to carry firearms, Moger said TISD has not implemented any such policies. “It’s obviously a topic of discussion, and it’s around the state,” he said. “If you notice, there are a little over a thousand school districts in the state, and out of that, there’s a handful that have actually made the decision to do that. That’s because it’s controversial.” Moger said the district’s current safety measures include armed resource officers, who he believes do a sufficient job in protecting the schools. “We have highly trained personnel on campus that works with our staff, that knows our schools, that have established relationships with students, and know the building as well. They’re much more equipped to handle a situation than a staff member,” he said. Director of Security for Killeen ISD John Dye said that while Texas legislation dictates that school districts can decide whether or not administration is armed, KISD, like Temple, has no armed staff other than the school police department. He said, “The vast majority of school districts have not gone in that direction.” Dye believes KISD’s measures are working, and that the addition of more firearms is a complicated decision to make. “You constantly review your procedures, and I think we have a pretty good system…. When you discuss having someone armed, that’s something that you can’t pull back from. There are a lot of things that come into play,” he said. In light of recent events, Dye said it’s a discussion that will undoubtedly continue. “School safety is a large pie with a lot of slices that are brought together….Sandy Hook will certainly have people thinking and reviewing their plans and reviewing their actions,” he said. Recently, Senate Bill 182 written  by Texas Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury,  that would allow for concealed firearms...

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Students take on sacred roles for annual Easter Pageant production

Undoubtedly, one of the most prestigious honors at the university is being asked to play the lead characters in the annual Easter Pageant. Senior vocal performance major Maddie Garcia will fill the role of Jesus’ mother, Mary this year. Senior chemistry major Chase Riggs will play Jesus. When Garcia was told of her selection for the part last year, she admits to being both excited and overwhelmed. “I felt very unworthy, almost.” Heavily involved in the university’s music department through concert choir, One Voice and the opera workshop, Garcia is no stranger to performing. However, she said this role is much different from those she is used to playing. “In other shows, you come, get on stage and go to the rehearsals, and it’s like a light switch,” she said. “But with Easter Pageant, I want to, and I need to, be living my life as much like Mary as far as wanting to be a strong, Christian woman …. It’s much more of a spiritual and emotional challenge as opposed to a technical challenge.” In preparing for the part, Garcia has studied what the Bible says about Mary and hopes to portray some of the characteristics she sees in her. “She had so much trust and so much strength through all of it. To me, she comes across as being so loyal and trusting and faithful and obedient and strong,” Garcia said. Though she has struggled with the weight of the role, Garcia said she is learning to be patient in seeing God’s plan for her through it. “It just feels like a lot to live up to, but I just trust that the Lord is going to be using me in any way he can or has planned,” she said. “Whether it’s me learning from other people, or me teaching other people, I have to keep in mind — because it is so overwhelming — that I have some purpose.” Director of Student Organizations Tiffany Wurdemann has met weekly with Garcia throughout the year to help mentor her through the process of playing Mary. She said said it is Garcia’s sense of inadequacy that makes her perfect for the part. “If you ask her, she feels the most unworthy person to be Mary, and you can tell through someone’s character if they’re just saying that or if they really mean it. She really, truly means it,” Wurdemann said. “That’s been something that, as we’ve been discovering who Mary was, that was Mary. I feel like that alone is why she’s perfect for that.” Long hair and an impressive beard give Chase Riggs away as the role of...

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Campus elects new leader
Mar14

Campus elects new leader

After weeks of campaigning, candidates, as well as the student population, learned the results of the student body president election last Thursday. The winner, senior chemistry and Spanish major Collin Davies looks forward to the futures of both the Student Government Association and the campus as a whole. Davies grew up as a homeschool student in Pasadena, Texas, southeast of Houston. Upon graduating from high school, he followed in his older brother and sister’s footsteps and joined the Crusader family. A variety of aspects attracted him to UMHB. “I loved visiting, I loved the people …. When it came down to deciding on a college … I chose it for these three reasons: the people, the fact that I could play tennis and the degree,” Davies said. Davies has embraced campus life and has taken advantage of what it has to offer. He has held leadership positions in a number of organizations and activities that include Stunt Night, Welcome Week, Homecoming, Revival and SGA. Sports have been an important part of his life and have led to some of his favorite experiences with friends during his college career. Davies said his fondest memories made with his tennis team have been of, “practicing alongside people and stating goals at the end of the season and working toward those goals.” As he became more involved on campus, his brother informed him of a sophomore senate position. Davies found out about his victory as SBP through a phone call while standing next to the Mabee Student Center. Current president senior business major Kassidy Harris called to notify him of his victory, but Davies did not pick up initially. Seeing it was Harris, Davies immediately returned the call. “I was excited. I definitely sort of, real quickly flashed over the next year and what that sort of holds,” he said. Although he is thrilled at the opportunity, Davies says he will do his best to remain humble in the position he has been given. “At the moment, I have a lot to learn to be student body president, but I’m also trusting, I’m very sure of Kassidy’s ability to impart (to) me the knowledge I need,” Davies said. Harris believes Davies is of strong character, and a good choice to lead SGA. “I see a lot of qualities in Collin that will make him a great SBP. First, he is a godly man that loves people and is willing to serve the student body. Also, he is very relational and truly wants to get to know people which is very crucial in this position. He also has great work ethic and will be...

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University site gets face-lift

The university community received a surprising email last week giving the details on a new design for the school’s official website. The message promised Crusaders a fresh, modern look as well as better support for mobile devices and other electronic gadgets. What brought about all of these changes, and does the new site really live up to the hype? Because of the decision to improve, renovations began in the summer of 2012.  According to web services manager Matthew Irvine, there were four reasons for the change. “The first one was that it wasn’t mobile optimized. That’s kind of the biggest emphasis for re-launching the website. On the old version, you had to really work to be able to get the content that you wanted,” he said. Twenty-five percent of devices accessing the website are mobile applications, and the percentage is steadily increasing. The second problem was navigation. Last year, a survey  among students showed that people had a hard time making their way around the website. “Eighteen percent of the navigation tests resulted in the user having difficulty getting to their intended location. If you wanted information on an academic program, for instance, you would have to know what college that academic program belongs to in order be able to navigate to it. So, we wanted to reduce the difficulty in navigating between different areas of the site,” Irvine said. Other factors involved with the decision to remodel were based on intuition and aesthetics. Irvine explained the site needed to be easy for people to find what they’re looking for. To fix this problem, sections of the site were moved to a drop-down menu. Before the renovation, most users were greeted with a bright yellow background when visiting the official home page. With help from webmaster Lucy Hutcheson, the layout was changed to a more toned-down look, making it easier for viewers to scroll through content. The biggest new feature of the site is its mobile-friendly aspect, and it also comes with a few extra neat tricks. Irvine said, “The sliders we have are touch-enabled. You can flick with your finger if you’re on a touch-enabled browser. We’ve done a lot of work on the faculty and staff profiles to make them friendlier to users. Mostly, it all boils down to the fact that it works on every screen size.” Associate Vice President for Information Technology Brent Harris said the newly designed website is now able to reconfigure to whatever size device is accessing the site. It will not load differently on a smartphone or a tablet. The content is the same, with only the layout adjusting. There’s still...

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Texas, gun culture go hand in hand

The Lone Star State: where guns are a way of life and even the governor can shoot a coyote on a jog through the woods. While many people in other states might find this action inappropriate and irresponsible, Texas culture accepts Gov. Rick Perry’s behavior as normal, even in the heated gun-control debates. Though not all Texans wield pistols and gallivant around on thoroughbreds, the culture of the state is one founded on the freedom of owning a weapon. UMHB sophomore business major Charlie Rod has grown up around guns on the ranches his family owns. He and his siblings see firearms not only as a means of defense, but as sport. Charlie’s 5-year-old brother shot his first animal last Christmas with a small caliber rifle. “My older brother and dad were with him. My dad taught him how to be safe with a gun and walked through every single step meticulously before allowing him to even pull a trigger. This is what all of my siblings have been through, including myself. It’s a safe process that requires repetition and a wise, responsible adult,” he said. The Rods take necessary precautions with their weapons because guns are a big part of their traditions as a family. “My father has done a fantastic job raising me to be responsible with firearms, and he is doing the exact same with the rest of my siblings,” Rod said. Student at Lonestar Community College Lexi Barnhill sat in a deer stand before she could balance a gun. She feels more comfortable there than anywhere else. Like many Texans, it’s how she was raised. “I started shooting guns when I was probably 6 or 7,  BB guns of course. The ranch has always been a good get-away for us, like a safe haven where we can relax and enjoy the sights of the hill country from the stand,” she said. Such is the culture of the Lone Star state. In fact, native Texans who haven’t done this  often seem odd and out of place in a society where shooting for recreation is so common. In fact, Barnhill’s holiday traditions incorporate this same sport. “On Thanksgiving, we go to our ranch every year and hunt. That’s just what we do, and what we will keep doing for years to come.… It’s a great Texas experience,” she said. Not only do Texans use guns recreationally, but they also use them for unconventional purposes as well. UMHB sophomore nursing major Allyssa Bradburn can shoot a gun or bow better than most boys. But what sets her apart is how she incorporates this hobby into her life. Combining...

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A hero remembered
Mar06

A hero remembered

The expected sound of gunshots echoed through the air at a north central Texas gun range near Glen Rose. What was out of the ordinary was the target on the receiving end of the bullets – an American hero who held the distinction of being the nation’s deadliest sniper. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was tragically shot and killed Feb. 2 by a fellow military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. In the face of the loss, Texans rallied together to build a bridge of support over a sea of grief.  From Midlothian to Austin, citizens waving American flags lined overpasses across I-35 as the funeral procession made its way to the cemetery where Kyle was laid to rest Feb. 12. Belton’s Sixth Street bridge near the UMHB campus was no exception. The gathering was advertised almost completely through social media. Instrumental in organizing the gathering was John Alaniz, local business owner, former Texas House of Representatives candidate and father of two UMHB students. “I saw that the funeral procession was going to be coming down I-35 on Facebook, and as soon as I saw that, I wanted to let everybody know that the opportunity to pay tribute would be available.” In addition to spreading the word and inviting people to the bridge to show their support, he helped with the logistical aspects of ensuring safety. “I did call the police department here in Belton and told them what we’d like to do and what we were expecting, and it was a thought to block off the lane to protect the pedestrians there,” Alaniz said. He was also moved by the local law enforcements’ display of honor for the fallen soldier. “The Belton Police Department and the fire department were just awesome in their support, and paying tribute along with us was just great.” In addition to the smaller flags that the people gathered were holding, several firemen raised a massive one on the fire engine’s ladder. Among those gathered was Judy Brady who heads up the Central Texas tea party based in downtown Belton. She was encouraged to see such support and patriotism on the part of the American public. “That’s what Americans do. When one’s down, we’re all hurt. We used to do a lot of that when I was growing up,” she said. Local radio talk show host and Army interrogator and Spanish linguist C.J. Grisham interviewed Kyle on a couple of occasions. He was also present at the bridge. “It was very heart warming. It was kind of hard to sink in, looking back. I had to take a step back from the bridge just to...

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