Community Conversation: School Safety Wrap-Up

(Warning: This is a long post.  Apologies.  Scroll to the end for resources/video)

After the Parkland shooting, many of you sent me questions- I assume because you didn’t know who else to ask- and I was completely unqualified to answer them, but they broke my heart.  I love our community and I love kids, and I want the kids in our community to feel- and be- safe.  I want you to feel that way, too.  Luckily for me, as I was planning to put together a way to answer your questions, Coles Supervisor Marty Nohe (full disclosure: drives my kids to Pokemon Club on Fridays) let me know that he was planning something, too.  That worked for me, as long as it was bi-partisan (enter: Schoolboard Members Diane Raulston and Willie Deutsch) and included experts that could answer the questions that you all had asked me.  Supervisor Nohe, to that end, brought in the Risk Management Office from PWCS, PWC Chief of Police Barnard and Sheriff Glenn Hill.  These were people who could answer your policy, funding, and procedure questions.

That left a lot of psychology-based questions, so I reached out and found Dr. Lindsey Leudtke and Mr. Scott Miller from Psychological and Life Skills Associates, and Stacy Phillips who is with Victim Justice for the Department of Justice. Alexandra Delaroderie from the Center for Pastoral Counseling also joined us to provide an information table with resources for parents.

After receiving numerous emails both to myself and Supervisor Nohe, I stripped out the backstories, although I want to assure you that I heard each one, and combined the like questions.  This was to allow us to go through and get answers faster.  If you’ve ever been to a town hall, you know that people can easily go through 20 minutes of back story to get to the actual question, and while that format is important, too, I was really dedicated to getting answers to as many of your questions as I could, and honestly, knowing this was a delicate issue and it was my first time moderating, I will be completely honest that I was nervous about my ability to handle audience questions if they became hostile.  Some of you didn’t like that format, and that’s fine, because you can host your own event- we need lots of conversations on this issue- although for those that came, we did end up taking community questions, and only one person tried to yell at me, so I’m counting that as a win.

Here are the questions that I asked:

  • Who specifically is responsible for ensuring that my children are safe from threats? What is the procedure for analyzing the validity of a threat? What protocol is PWCS using? If a student makes a threat, are they allowed back in school, and if so, what is the protocol for that?
  • In the wake of threats, including the one most recently made against Forest Park, how can parents empower their children to feel in control of their own safety? What resources are available for children who feel scared about going to school?
  • Why are parents not informed about lockdown drills so that we can prepare our children emotionally or so that we can at least debrief them afterwards? What should we tell our children to prepare them for these? Do lockdown drills actually help children, or do they just scare them?
  • What are the current action items regarding school enhancements, such as buzzer systems, cameras, and locked doors? Is there a standard as far as what schools are going to be required to have as safety enhancements, or is this part of “site based management”? Why is this disparity acceptable?
  • Has PWCS had their lock-down procedures analyzed for effectiveness? If so, is that information available to the public? If not, why not?
  • What is the plan for having more school psychologists and counselors, both to be available to students who need them and for acting as resources to parents? If my child feels threatened or bullied, or if my child is depressed, but we cannot afford private counseling, what options are available to me in the county for help?
  • What type of training or procedures are in place for PWC Police regarding handling special needs students? For example, do they know which classrooms house autistic children who may not be able to follow directions such as “put your hands up”?
  • How do I know if my child could potentially be a threat to others? What should I be looking for?
  • If I am concerned about comments/social media/etc from a child, who do I go to for help, especially since I don’t want to get a child arrested for something that was just an angry comment, but I don’t want to not take it seriously, either.
  • Does PWCS have plans in place for safety for special instances, such as students in trailers, students at recess, and at arrival/dismissal times? Are these practiced/drilled as well as regular “lock down” procedures?
  • Which schools currently have resource officers, and is there a plan to have a resource officer at every school? Can schools request additional police support if there is a threat or potential issue?
  • How do I talk to my child about violent events at schools around the country and not scare them? What age is appropriate to talk to children about possible school violence?
  • If the PWCS and Police let the county know what they need, will the county find funds for it? What funds have already been allocated for school safety? What cuts is the county willing to make to ensure safe schools?

In addition to the links included with each speaker above, Supervisor Nohe’s office put together this handy sheet with how to contact your elected officials:

contact your electeds Finally, thanks to What’s Up Woodbridge, you can watch the entire thing on video.  Fun fact: I thought that the program didn’t include Stacy Phillip’s information (because hers was the only name with her title first) and got totally flustered introducing the panel.  It was my first time, cut me a large break while you watch.

Thank you for trusting me with your questions, and I hope that these answers get you started towards solutions for your family and your school.  I really do love our community and am here to help whenever I can.