As we begin the 2018-19 school year, the experiences of last year continue to remain in the back of our minds. When parents send their kids back to school on August 23, I believe they should have the expectation of a safe and respectful environment in which their children can learn and thrive. While many will push for legislation, more resources for security, updated policies to promote safe environments, I believe it will take a number of steps to make a difference.
As superintendent of Clinton Schools, I will not compromise on school safety and respect. Last February, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued the following considerations for a comprehensive prevention plan for violent school attacks:
- Foster a Climate of Respect and Trust–Reinforce, at all levels of the school community, positive behaviors, respectful interactions, and pro-social relationships. Ensure teachers, staff, and administrators take fair and consistent action when
they learn of a situation that might require intervention and/or discipline. Teach and encourage students to use conflict resolution, peer mediation, active listening, and other non-violent ways to solve problems. Develop anti-bullying programs
and educate students, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators on what steps to take if they know bullying is occurring.
- Build Relationships – Trusting relationships between adults and students are the product of quality connections, respectful communications, and frequent interactions. Schools in which students feel connected to each other and to adults promote a safe educational environment and encourage communication between students and teachers. Start building relationships between the students and the school before the first day of class. Ensure each student has a trusting relationship with an adult, whether it is a teacher, coach, member of the custodial staff, or a school nurse.
- Identify Concerning Behaviors – Ensure that students, parents, teachers, and staff are familiar with how to report behaviors and/or communications they learn about that raise concern. Such behaviors and communications include, among others, expressions of hopelessness, drug use, suicidal gestures or statements, depression, threats of violence, unusual interest in weapons or incidents of mass violence, and problems or stressful situations, including bullying, that negatively impact the student’s coping and well-being inside and outside of the school environment.
- Reinforce Clear Policies and Procedures – Policies should clearly identify threat assessment team roles and responsibilities, define the threshold of concern for initiating a threat assessment, describe the types of information that will be gathered, and the actions that will be followed from initiation to conclusion of the threat assessment inquiry or investigation. The threshold for intervention should be low to ensure potential threats are assessed.
- Liaison with Law Enforcement – Foster relationships with local law enforcement personnel. Local law enforcement or school resource officers can serve as a member of the threat assessment team and can assist with gathering and sharing information.
- Require Consistent Training Among Stakeholders – Teachers, administrators, other staff, and community stakeholders should be trained on how to properly respond when they receive information about a threatening or concerning situation. A relationship among school officials, law enforcement, and others should be established prior to an incident. Reinforce these relationships through ongoing scenario-based training to ensure parties understand their roles and responsibilities, how information will be shared, and what steps will be taken.
I strongly encourage all parents to have a discussion with your children about their role in school safety. It is important to report to school adults about any suspicious or inappropriate behavior. Also, students need to handle human conflict in an appropriate manner. It is not acceptable to threaten anyone’s life or the school for any reason. Being mad at someone or claiming to be bullied are not acceptable excuses for threats. There are procedures that must be followed to address these issues.
Clinton Community School District will follow these best practices in maintaining a safe and respectful learning environment in all our classrooms. Please work with us in keeping our schools safe for our kids.