With the recent tragedy in Littleton, Colo., school safety has become a major concern across the nation. RISD trustees are committed to improving district safety and here are some of the steps we’ve taken.
Basically, there are two ways to keep schools safe. The first is hardware (e.g. metal detectors); the second is software (e.g. listening to the students).
In the “hardware” category, ALL teachers have cell phones. We don’t use metal detectors because our dress code eliminates hiding places for contraband by requiring tucked shirts, pulled-up pants, no coats and locker-stowed back packs. We recently reviewed our crisis plans and are conducting school walk-throughs with police officers in all schools. Richardson police will soon resume the drug dog program.
In the “software” category, counselors are trained to recognize students with problems and anti-social behavior and to interact with parents. We sponsor conflict resolution, peer mediation and bully program training beginning in kindergarten. We house a student/resource officer at every junior and senior high school. These officers interact with kids, building relationships and working to resolve conflict properly.
Prior to Littleton, trustees attended a seminar conducted by officials from Paducah, Ky., Pearl, Miss., Jonesboro, Ark., and Springfield, Ore., at the National School Board Association Convention. As a result, we contacted the Richardson and Dallas police and city managers to review our joint emergency response plans.
In August 1998, we formed a safety committee charged with conducting a safety audit of the district. We will pursue the Safe School Plan, and will tighten visitor check-in and probably will institute keyless building access.
In October, Peter Blauvelt from the National Alliance of Safe Schools evaluated our buildings and programs. Blauvelt is the national authority who has been quoted extensively in the media. He reviewed our safety policies and procedures, talked with our principals and concluded that our district is much more proactive than 99% of school districts. He returned in March to conduct three days of very practical workshops for all principals, assistant principals and selected central staff.
Blauvelt believes that while “hardware” solutions make us feel more comfortable, they do not and have not prevented school tragedies. He commended our “software” solutions and observed that RISD has:
- demonstrated the willingness to listen intently to our students;
- provided the communication tools for students to identify their troubled friends; and
- helped troubled children through caring crisis intervention teams.
RISD is wholly committed to ensuring school safety. We must all pray that our community will never face the anguish of Littleton.