District updates parents on Safe School Readiness efforts

by beth on March 9, 2018

Superintendent Christine Johnson has issued a statement to parents on Safe School Readiness.

In September 2013, our school district held a forum to educate parents on the new safety model they were rolling out in the schools, ALICE. It was based on collaboration between the administration, emergency departments, and consultants. It was developed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting and other incidents. Since then, students have been involved in drills teaching them procedures and strategies in case of an intruder or attack.

But, some details around the most recent school shooting in a Parkland, Fl school by a former student stirred up more than just debates on gun control. Tactics used and warning signs that may have been mishandled prompted questions about what schools and law enforcement should be doing to protect students.

The debate has been at a national level, but it hits all parents (and many students) close to home.

Last week, Algonquin had to deal with false rumors of a threat against students. And Southborough Police were called in to investigate a potential threat involving middle schoolers and “social media” (determined to not be a threat). After the second incident, Trottier Middle School Principal Kieth Lavoie promised that the Superintendent would be communicating with parents about “all the work that is being done to keep our students safe.” That statement was issued this afternoon:

Making the Connection – Safe School Readiness

The Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough continue to place the highest priority on providing a safe and supportive school climate for all students, and though we cannot predict the unexpected, we remain steadfast in our commitment to maintaining a positive learning environment, where all students feel connected to their school, staff, and each other.

Safety and emergency management officials, school and town personnel, and community members support our ongoing effort in the development and implementation of both proactive and responsive protocols and practices. An essential component of our proactive work is making positive connections with our students, employing the personnel to address their needs as they grow and achieve, and creating an exceptional experience where each student has the opportunity to develop and realize their potential.

Making connections and building relationships with students and parents within our communities is a foundational component of a safe school. In addition, we continue to believe that it is equally important to engage students in activities that promote their social and emotional well-being, as well as provide them with rich and varied learning experiences. We also believe in the importance of supporting our students as they begin to question and find their voice as active participants in our society.

Communication is one of our strategic areas of focus. We encourage all of our students and the greater school community to reach out whenever they see something that is of concern and to say something to individuals who can help. In response, we will take action and strive to provide factual, appropriate, and timely communications. We are mindful that social media is an important and powerful source of information, but it is important to have conversations with students and one another regarding its responsible use and its impact on the greater school community. Moreover, the time-sensitive nature of our work does not always coincide with the immediacy of technology. Our responsibility is to address the needs of our students and to provide information to the school community in a format that is clear, concise and informative.

We are grateful for the continued support and collaboration with our local police departments. Our school resource officers are on campus, building positive relationships with our students, and taking an active part in safe school readiness drills. A police vehicle in front of our school is not always a sign of a problem, but more often than not a proactive measure to provide opportunities for positive dialog with students and staff.

We believe it is important to implement age-appropriate, proactive and responsive strategies and to provide students with the skills and knowledge that will help them navigate their world beyond our school campus. Our safety plans and practices are reviewed, discussed and enhanced annually. This review is based on best practices modeled after the research and recommendations included in the Massachusetts Task Force Report on School Safety and Security and the Homeland Security Readiness Emergency Management (REMS), and recommendations from our local safety teams. A Safe School Update is included in the District Back-To-School e-Newsletter and each school includes updates in weekly backpack communications. Our District actively participates in numerous town, private and public organizations that provide overarching support for our students, parents, and the broader community. These organizations are part of and connected to local and statewide safety and emergency networks.

Our schools will continue with their multi-level enhanced safety drills and you will receive notification from your child’s individual school, as is our practice. Our District website contains information regarding our safety initiatives and protocols, as well as resources for parents.

We have secure access to all of our schools. We conduct facilities reviews and pursue enhancements that may create a positive impact on our overall safety. Due to the sensitive nature of maintaining effective safe school readiness, information regarding security personnel, devices or strategies are discussed with our School Committees in executive session.

Most recently, our students have been encouraged to participate in various activities that show their solidarity for the students who tragically lost their lives in Florida. As educators and parents, our role is to continue to inspire our students to engage in the world in which they live and to be educated citizens. Often these moments challenge our students’ thinking about complex issues and present opportunities for adults and students to engage in active dialog, advocacy, and expression.

We also believe it is important to listen and support our students. Age-appropriate conversations with our students regarding their participation in such events are taking place within our schools. We recognize that it is our role as adults and educators to provide students with alternatives and to challenge their thinking while continuing to center on our core values of inclusivity, and respect for one another’s ideas and beliefs. This includes establishing guidelines, which stress individual accountability and adherence to expectations of acceptable behaviors.

Our students are at the core of our work and their safety is our highest priority. We remain vigilant and appreciate that there is no place for complacency when it comes to our students’ safety.

Respectfully,

Christine M. Johnson, Superintendent of Schools

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