Guest opinion: School safety is a collaborative effort

  • Wednesday, March 7, 2018 1:30am
  • Opinion

Dear student, parent/guardian, staff and community member,

Over the past several days, I have spoken with many of you about the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Certainly, our thoughts and well wishes go out to a community that is hurting from this horrific incident.

As dreadful as this event is, it does serve as an opportunity for us to review district safety plans and best practices through partnerships with local and regional emergency agencies. Safety is not negotiable. The staff at Sequim School District regard student safety as the highest priority.

For the past two years, our district worked on updating our Critical Incident Response Quick Guide. The guide, now complete and distributed, utilizes best practices as established by FEMA, regional and local first responders.

Our goal is to be able to react to emergencies proactively, including active shooter, fire, earthquakes, lock-downs and other serious safety issues.

One of the best practices, that does not cost a lot of money, is to empower students to report potential safety threats.

It is our goal to make certain students understand that reporting potential safety threats to an adult, either school personnel or a family member, will ensure that the matter will be investigated.

Creating a culture of trust, in which students feel safe reporting potential threats, still proves to be one of the most reliable ways to make schools safe.

In addition to empowering students to report threats, our district continues to collaborate with local and regional agencies. We are currently members of the City of Sequim Crisis Team and the Clallam County Sheriff’s Emergency Planning Team.

Our most visible enforcement is our School Resource Officer (SRO). Through combined efforts with Sequim Police Department, we have a full-time officer who has an office in the district.

Having the SRO in the district throughout the day increases safety and security, as well as affords us the opportunity to access other local and regional agencies quickly, if needed.

Through a safety grant, we were able to upgrade some of our radio communication devices. The upgrade made it possible to replace some of our outdated devices that had very limited and remote capacity.

Again, advice and guidance from our SRO in the search for the best communication devices, was invaluable.

Of course, we will continue to look for ways to improve on district infrastructure. The time will come when we will be able to renovate existing buildings to meet 21st-century requirements for learning as well as safety.

Making sure that our students feel safe in school is a goal that has no finish line and it is our promise to you.

Gary Neal is superintendent of the Sequim School District.

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