School safety

The issue of school safety is a very broad topic. Schools have a wide array of issues to consider as plans are made to keep our kids safe. Unfortunately, because of recent violence across the nation, most thoughts turn to the worst-case scenario of gun violence in schools.

The 1999 Columbine High School tragedy is considered the event that signifies this loss of innocence for our nation. As we skip to today’s world, the potential for risk in our schools, places of work and worship has become a part of our culture. School employees and students arrive daily at the schoolhouse door with that knowledge.

We are continuously reminded by shocking events throughout our nation of the eventuality of violence. It is important that we maintain a focus on safety awareness at all times, not just when a recent tragedy reminds us of this eventuality.

I feel fortunate that our district has had the foresight to secure our entrances with security systems that require visitors to be buzzed in for admittance. The remodeling project at Sabetha Elementary School to require visitors to gain access through the office is also a positive step forward.

I am grateful that over the past six years, USD 113 has benefited from the personalized training for staff and students by Mr. John Calvert, Director of the KSDE Safe and Secure Schools Unit. He has assisted our district with school safety and security procedures.

In a recent article in the Topeka Capital Journal, Mr. Calvert emphasized… The most effective school shooting prevention measures aren’t necessarily tied to money or physical items:

“In too many instances, there’s a large number of people who knew or thought an incident might occur, or they had seen or heard something,” Calvert said. “Having a positive relationship with our students, so that they know that they can go to a coach, a teacher, principal, counselor, SRO — whoever it might be, that student knows there’s a trusted adult they can reach out to who is going to help.”

Our district’s staff continues to establish foundational relationships with our students and families. Hopefully, all students know a trusted adult they can go to when they are aware of someone who is a threat to themselves or others. Student and staff situational awareness is our best defense against violence.

Some additional factors to consider regarding school safety:

• We are all responsible for maintaining a safe environment. Very seldom has a violent act been committed when warning was not given. Take threats seriously. Report any situation to the appropriate authorities. It is much better to risk a false report than to live with that regret later.

• It is important to remember that rumors can be damaging. If you hear of a safety issue, please contact the school or police and ask/inform the appropriate authority. Speculation and sharing the rumor will only complicate the problem.

• Talk with children. Make it age-appropriate, but talk with them. Talk with them about your expectations for treatment of others. Talk with them about bullying. Talk with them about not being an inactive bystander. Model for them your expectations.

• We are fortunate that all of our buildings in USD 113 have security systems that require visitors to be buzzed in for admittance. Please respect this procedure, even if inconvenient; and report when security precautions are not being followed.

Every year as the Columbine anniversary approaches, I think of the tragic loss and how violence has changed our culture. It is a continual reminder that we all have a responsibility to keep each other safe. Continued vigilance regarding school safety is the responsibility of everyone.

Todd Evans22 Posts

Todd Evans currently serves as Superintendent of Prairie Hills USD No. 113 in Kansas. USD No. 113 operates Pre-K through 12 schools in the communities of Sabetha, Wetmore and Axtell.

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