One year later: What have we learned?
Kentucky School Advocate
By Dan Orman
Training Coordinator, Kentucky Center for School Safety
Our state recently recognized the one-year anniversary of the shooting in which two Marshall County students lost their lives. One of the most constructive ways to get through the painful and difficult remembrance is to take inventory of lessons learned and apply them to our schools now. As communities across our country grapple with the difficult memories of cowardly attacks on schools, let’s look at some of the changes and ways in which school safety/security can be improved.
The Kentucky General Assembly, determined to make progress on listening to voices around our state and apply those voices to potential legislative action, created the School Safety Working Group. The 16-member task force, chaired by Sen. Max Wise and Rep. John “Bam” Carney, worked for eight months and held five public hearings in various regions of Kentucky. The general concepts which emerged from those meetings included a need for increased access to mental health resources, the provision of additional school resource officers and updates to school buildings to help make them safer.
The number of school resource officers has increased from 271 to 405 for the current school year. It is essential for officers who take on primary security roles in schools to have specialized training. Montgomery County Schools police officer and Kentucky Association of School Resource Officers (KYASRO) President Chris Barrier strongly suggests involvement in the association. It is an awesome opportunity for police officers to connect with others who are doing the same difficult job and keeping school communities safe across Kentucky. For more information, contact Barrier or check out www.kyasro.com.
There are a number of school safety laws already on the books. It is incumbent on every school leader to ensure they are following the requirements. Some of those include the following:
• KRS 161.180 – Enhancing supervision at all times throughout the school day and in all areas of the building; this extends to critical times beyond the traditional school day, including morning gathering areas, afternoon activities and school-sponsored events.
• KRS 158.148 – Providing immediate attention to harassment/bullying reports. This requires strong partnerships between school and home because so much of the suspected harassment/bullying is carried out via social media and directly through texting and other forms of direct phone contact. Parents and families must be more involved in kids’ activities on social media and texting (charging phones in parents’ bedrooms at night, access to passwords, constant discussion and awareness, etc.)
• KRS 158.162 – Effective building access control, practicing emergency drills and developing effective emergency management plans. Keeping exterior doors locked, situational awareness regarding visitors on school grounds and in buildings and taking steps to keep classroom doors locked during instruction are all steps in the right direction.
Schools remain one of the safest places in which any child can spend his or her day. However, as with all aspects of enhancing safety in every school district, real school safety requires an “all in” approach. Commitment over compliance pushes each of us in every school community to ask questions, make suggestions and to speak up to law enforcement and school officials if something is occurring that might present danger to those who spend so much time teaching and learning in our schools.
Please contact the Kentucky Center for School Safety if you have questions or want additional information.