School is back in session—do you know the latest TikTok trends?
With Austin ISD resuming session on Monday, school officials are keeping tabs on the newest TikTok trends that could pose classroom disruptions and property damage.
TikTok trends swept through Austin-area schools last year with the “Devious Lick” challenge, which encouraged students to steal from school property and reportedly caused $15,000 in damages at Round Round ISD; and the “slap a staff member” challenge.
On the distraction end, a substitute teacher was dismissed from Bowie High School in December after bringing in a karaoke machine to class and singing Britney Spears’ “Toxic” for the class on TikTok.
Officials told KXAN they are staying aware of the trends as they change during the 2022-2023 school year and the district will investigate perceived threats. Since TikTok trends vary in severity, they will also evaluate to see which trends could cause harm or not.
Finally, the school district said it does not tolerate violence or bullying and will focus its efforts on protecting students both physically and digitally.
Matias Segura swept his hand across a whiteboard in his office at AISD headquarters, describing how an entrance vestibule works. It might remind you of a sally port at a prison. The vestibule is designed to protect our children from the active shooters who have plagued our nation since Columbine in 1999.
“You start with the signage,” he said. “You know exactly where the entrance is, and that’s for first responders too. We really want to make sure we keep up with visitor patterns. If they come in, they go through a system. Driver’s license, background check, which takes about a minute. We have a software system.”
AISD Director of Operations Matias Segura explains the overall school construction and what the entry vestibule looks like. (Rich Oppel)
The vestibule has two sets of locked doors. The exterior set has an audio-visual intercom, operated by a desk officer who has a view of visitor parking, the building approach and the vestibule. If allowed in, a visitor is buzzed through and then faces questioning and clearance by the desk officer. The visitor is given a card-reader pass. If a second person attempts to “trail in” behind another visitor, he is trapped in the vestibule until his status is determined. The second set of doors, into the main school building, remains locked and shut. It is open when students arrive in the morning.
Thus, the days of walking into the school, maybe waving at the principal’s executive assistant and strolling off to the cafeteria for lunch with your daughter are gone, a relic of a more bucolic time when “active shooters” were never imagined. But one must ask, what do we give up for greater safety?
Austinites remembered the Uvalde shooting victims in a vigil at the Texas Capitol in May. (Tony Fuentes)
Some critics argue that we are at risk of losing traditional values in the redesign of schools, courthouses, hospitals, churches and shopping centers. Writing in The Washington Post, architecture critic Philip Kennicott said the nation’s gun culture “threatens an essential precondition for democracy: its public space… Ideals of openness, flow, transparency and access will no longer be sustainable.”
Segura contemplates the question. At 41, he has held his job as AISD director of operations for four and a half years. Prior to that he was a consultant who led the team to build Austin’s new courthouse. His Austin and Texas roots are deep. He was born here, graduated from Bowie High, and went off to Lubbock to earn a degree in civil engineering from Texas Tech. He returned to secure an MBA at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his wife Joy Burson-Segura have two daughters who attend AISD schools. Segura said he and his operations team love AISD, care deeply about their work, and want citizens “to see us as partners.”
Back to what we lose in hardening the schools.
Segura says, “We think about students’ health. Having daylight, bringing light into a hardened facility, being able to access outdoor learning areas, (which is) hypercritical, especially in what we have learned in the pandemic.” Segura doesn’t like the idea of moats around schools (exotic, expensive) nor of classroom bomb shelters (what would teachers and students think about their looming presence?), efforts that are being tried elsewhere.
Healthcare workers receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the AISD Performing Arts Center in Mueller in 2021. (Jordan Vonderhaar)
AISD must juggle school security with the historic use of our schools for other purposes, such as voting, PTA-PTO meetings, community fairs, and, more recently, COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and food distribution. AISD does not want to end those uses, so the challenge is to design schools with separate rooms or places for those uses.
Clearly, Segura has thought about balancing conflicting equities. For him, it’s not all locked doors and blank brick or concrete walls. He stresses the importance of building a culture that includes shared responsibility of all school employees where, for example, a custodian could ask a stranger whether they have a visitor’s badge. All staffers should be well-trained in security measures, knowledgeable about new technology, and committed to working as a team to protect students, teachers and others. “We are working very, very hard on the culture,” he says. “Also, we need (financial) investment if we are going to move the needle.”
Kennicott, the Washington Post critic, quotes the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist and New York Democrat, who said, “Architecture is inescapably a political art, and it reports faithfully for ages to come what the political values of a particular era were. Surely, ours must be openness and fearlessness in the face of those who hide in darkness.”
But that was in 2001. What messages will Austin’s new public schools convey to future generations about our 2021 political values?
“First and foremost, these are education spaces that belong to our community. Our objective is to create incredible learning experiences for our students and at the same time ensure that the students and staff are safe.” He said he wants people to view schools as “inspired,” places where they would want to send their children. “Great things are happening in that space,” and that teachers see a place where they want to work and where they feel safe.
Voters in AISD will decide Nov. 8 on a $2.44 billion bond package to provide “funding for improvements to enhance safety, centers on equity, benefits every campus, and addresses affordability,” according to AISD officials.
Editor's Note: This story is a first-person account from an Austin ISD teacher who has asked to remain anonymous for fear of potentially losing her job.
Teacher burnout is real. I have worked in Austin ISD for more than 15 years, and I have seen it all.
Teachers are leaving this industry at an alarming rate and people keep asking why? It should all be really obvious. Lack of pay, lack of teachers and lack of respect.
This is why teachers rallied last Thursday for better pay. With 17 years of experience, I make up to $55,000 a year as an elementary school teacher. Some ask why I stay and it comes down to one thing, I love teaching—I am molding the future generations. I have stayed in this district because it hasn't always been this way.
Austin ISD employees and others gathered for higher pay at the district headquarters Thursday. (Education Austin/Twitter)
But one by one, teachers are leaving looking for better opportunities since the pandemic. Because for the past two years, teachers are being asked to do the most they ever have without a pay increase.
When a teacher is out, other teachers are asked to take those students into their classrooms and end up with 30+ students. How is that safe? The State education agency says pre-k through fourth grade should not exceed a class size of 22. But admin is not helping keep classrooms under the regulated class size.
At my school we have a bilingual classroom that was taught for nine weeks with only an English teacher, then they used another teacher that’s bilingual to just support. How is admin sitting in their office OK with this?
When test scores are adequate, our school’s higher-ups turn a blind eye. They don't show they care for the well-being of teachers or the students.
Additionally, teachers are on their own when it comes to parents, who have been more aggressively vocal since the pandemic. We have parents yelling at teachers, and admin ignoring both parent and teacher.
When my colleagues and I receive text messages after hours in all caps from angry parents, it's up to us to figure out what to do. And it happens in person too, where you can witness parents yelling at teachers directing traffic at morning drop off.
We have students bringing illegal items to school and not being reprimanded. I have seen students bring drugs, bullets and knives in an elementary school. These items are dangerous and could seriously hurt other students, and somehow parents are not informed of this information. There are no preventative measures being taken to make sure there is safety at school.
No one is benefitting from any of this—but getting the worst end of it is the students, and that’s who we are supposed to be trying and giving our best to.
Things need to change at AISD and it starts with respect and support of teachers.
Tell me if that is a job you would be willing to stay at for the pay we make.
Austonia reached out to an Austin ISD spokesperson for comment, receiving this response:
"I can understand a teacher would want to write this anonymously given the culture of reprisal that used to exist here. Now, however, we're all about fixing problems, not covering them up... What is being described here is a campus with a messed-up culture, and there are a lot of people here where I work who would want to work with the campus administrators to get this fixed."
- Austin ISD employees experience 'pay glitch' amid rallies for higher ... ›
- Austin ISD student failure rate stays high in 2020-21 year - austonia ›
- Austin ISD teacher identified as hiker swept by flood in El Paso ... ›
- Austin ISD goes fully in-person for 2021-22 school year - austonia ›
- Austin ISD enrollment decline may lead to layoffs amid COVID ... ›
- Photo essay: Austin ISD students head back to the classroom with ... ›