Defender News Briefs for week of Nov. 11 - 17, 2022
Sargeant Stephen Woodard, representing the Texas Department of Public Safety, reminded the audience about their role in the #EndTheStreak campaign. Woodard urged drivers to keep their eyes on the road and protect lives. Experience shows that distracted driving plays a major role in car crashes and fatalities.

Houston students work to #EndTheStreak of Texas road fatalities 

Texas has not gone a day without a motor vehicle fatality since Nov. 7, 2000. Now, the Texas Department of Transportation is determined to “End the Streak” of traffic deaths in Texas. In 2021, there were 1,312 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the TxDOT six-county Houston district. To support the effort, TxDOT recently shared with local motorists the features of its Houston ConnectSmart multi-modal mobility app that can support safe driving. The new tool can be used to alert drivers when they enter school zones and when they exceed the speed limit in those zones. The alerts are audible and do not require drivers to avert their attention. Students at the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy are actively engaged in development of the app. The goal is to reduce traffic fatalities in Texas by 2035 and eliminate them altogether by 2050. Those who download the free Houston ConnectSmart app and use it by Nov. 30, the app’s developer, Metropia Inc., will donate a dollar for every trip you take, up to 10 trips per person and up to $5,000, to the Kailee Mills foundation to promote driver safety education among young people. The app has numerous other safety features such as the ability to recommend safer routes for bicyclists and the ability to help stranded motorists summon a free tow-truck via Tow and Go service where available.

Austin-area teacher fired after telling students he was racist

A Pflugerville teacher is no longer employed by the district after a video surfaced of him describing himself as “ethnocentric.” The teacher still has not been officially identified, but he was a teacher at Bohls Middle School. He was initially placed on administrative leave after video posted on social media showed the teacher, who is white, saying to students that he believes his race is superior to others. The students appear to be dumbfounded when he goes on to say that he is racist. Officials say the teacher “is no longer employed” by the district and that the district “is actively looking for a replacement.” The district also apologized to any parents whose students have been included in the video without their knowledge.

Meals on Wheels needs volunteers to call seniors on Thanksgiving

Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston’s Meals on Wheels program is seeking volunteers to make phone calls to area homebound seniors on Thanksgiving morning. At this time, 300 volunteers are needed to ensure that the over 5,000 seniors served by Meals on Wheels receive calls. Staff will deliver a special Thanksgiving meal, ahead of the holiday, to seniors on the program. On Thanksgiving morning, starting at 9 a.m., volunteers are needed to make calls, using a virtual phone bank system. The EveryAction virtual phone bank system allows volunteers to make calls from their personal computers. It is described as a great holiday activity for the whole family, one that inspires an “attitude of gratitude” for both the volunteer and the senior. Each volunteer or family will be assigned 15 to 20 seniors to call. For more info visit https://www.imgh.org/events/thanksgiving2022/

HISD rolls out student designed enrollment truck to reach families

Houston Independent School District is prioritizing equitable access to Houston and surrounding families with a new HISD Mobile Enrollment Unit (E-Unit). The E-Unit will make its way to families throughout Houston and surrounding areas by stopping through neighborhoods, highly populated areas, local business and local community events to provide assistance with student enrollment every step of the way.  HISD families will have the opportunity to use the high-tech enrollment stations inside the truck to enroll at their zoned school or to apply to select schools and programs districtwide. Families can expect to see the truck in neighborhoods during and after normal working hours.