Every year to mark the anniversary of the March 18, 1937 Texas School Explosion, I salute a Healthy Schools Hero whose inspirational leadership sets a high standard for safety that protects children from hazards and unhealthy school conditions.
The Healthy Schools Hero award is part of a campaign to make March 18 an annual day to bring the lessons of the 1937 Texas School Explosion to every school, to update school values and technical skills for 21st century citizens, and to celebrate the leadership for safety that can save lives.
This year, on the 75th anniversary of the tragedy, two school leaders from small Texas towns are Healthy Schools Heroes because each demonstrates extraordinary personal responsibility in making safety a core value and taking pride in schools that are clean and in good repair.
They both understand that high standards, regulations, and professional training are essential safeguards for ensuring the quality and well-being of their communities.
Both school leaders know the story of the 1937 New London School Explosion. They take no short cuts when it comes to safety.
Superintendent Harold Cowley of Yantis ISD is a 2012 Healthy Kids Healthy Schools Hero for his extraordinary leadership and dedication to the safety and well-being of the children and teachers in Yantis, TX. Superintendent Cowley is highly qualified to be chief administrator of a modern school system because of a special combination of his values as well as his technical knowledge and skills. READ MORE
Disa Schulze, Director of Support Services, Danbury ISD, TX, is a 2012 Healthy Kids Healthy Schools Hero for more than twenty years of dedication to the safety and well-being of the children and teachers where she is responsible for Maintenance, Food Service, Transportation, and Safety. READ MORE
A Case Study and Cautionary Tale
The 1937 Texas School Explosion was a gas explosion that killed more than 300 people, mostly students, just minutes before the end of the day in their new state-of-the-art public school.
An investigation found unnecessary short cuts and false economies, a series of design, building and operations defects, and unheeded warnings. However, the investigators concluded that school officials were just "average individuals, ignorant or indifferent to the need for precautionary measures, where they cannot, in their lack of knowledge, visualize a danger or a hazard." (Court of Inquiry, 1937.)
A new law was quickly passed to require a warning odor in natural gas, thus saving millions of lives all over the world. Yet, other important recommendations for safety are still too rare in today’s schools. They include requiring “technically trained administrators for modern school systems, rigid inspections and more widespread public education about managing hazards, and a comprehensive, rational safety code.”
On March 25, 1937 fifth grader Carolyn Jones spoke to the Texas Legislature asking them "...to set aside a special day each year to be observed as a memorial day on which tribute will be paid to the children and teachers who died in this catastrophe...and to make laws of safety... Our daddies and mothers, as well as the teachers, want to know that when we leave our homes in the morning to go to school, that we will come out safe when our lessons are over." Read Carolyn’s speech.
Read about Healthy Schools Heroes 2011 - 2005
Bring the Lessons of the 1937 TX School Explosion to Your School