A Message from Dr. Roach: School Safety
The safety and security of students in public school has and will remain a priority for all members of the profession. Our district does not live in isolation. Emergencies, including violent acts, in our school, can occur at any time. That said, during the last four years we have made a concerted effort to improve the level of safety and security continually afforded our students and staff members.
Initial steps were taken to harden entrances to our buildings with secured access points and the locking of exterior doors. Each year we enhance our video surveillance capabilities and will continue to do so. Every year we upgrade the monitoring of our computer network. Proactive measures, along with these reactive steps, are also ongoing. Also, security was a focal point with each of our capital improvements. Most importantly, Olney ISD recognizes the fact that people are the most critical component of a safe, secure environment.
Olney ISD staff members are required to complete the Texas Behavior Support Institute and Crisis Prevention Intervention training, which provides tools and a mindset to recognize changes in student behavior as well as techniques for diffusing volatile situations. Suicide prevention, bullying and abuse/neglect training are also mandatory. We have made available the means for the anonymous reporting of safety and security problems by students, staff, parents and the community. Employees are trained to complete reporting to Child Protective Services. When adding ethics and social media awareness training, we end up with a comprehensive program both proactive and reactive. All these targets the safety and security of students and staff members. Enhanced security efforts then would seem the next step, and we are already at work.
Approximately a year ago, we began a rework and update of our district emergency operations plan--a living document that will be reviewed and modified yearly. Also, adjustments of campus-specific emergency plans are conducted annually. Staff members have completed the Texas School Safety Center’s Standard Response Protocol (SRP) training. Before this, we participated in ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training. Every year, the staff trains their students in each class on emergency procedures, and students receive a comprehensive and expanding array of services and training with the goal of prevention.
We discovered an interesting statistic that has been reinforced during a casual discussion with police officers, sheriff’s deputies, highway patrol and Texas Rangers. John-Michael Keyes of the I Love You Guys Foundation developed the SRP. He revealed that there had been zero breaches of a locked classroom door by a gunman and zero fatalities in a locked classroom. Suffice to say that our regulatory policy mandates locked classroom doors.
Districtwide students are instructed in character education, internet security, bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, social interaction and general safety. Knowledgeable speakers are brought in to address problems faced in the world today with both students and, at times, programming for parents and the community. These programs are a work in progress with a yearly review. The intent is to provide age and gradeappropriate topics pre-K through 12th grade. We now have counselors on each campus, access to licensed specialists in school psychology for our special population students, and we are considering outside sources to provide targeted therapeutic services.
A hot topic is firearms. We are fortunate that public school districts are afforded flexibility and discretion when choosing a path to take. After much discussion, the district decided to update our local policy and leave it at our discretion the arming of staff members. The subsequent discussion provided the basis for our specific firearm plan currently in process.
Teachers will not be carrying firearms in the classroom. There will be specified staff members who are in the process of acquiring concealed handgun licenses, firearm training and psychological testing. Firearms will be present on our campuses and accessible but not carried by any specified staff. Generic signs will be posted notifying the public that staff is trained to take whatever means necessary to protect the well-being of students. Gun-toting staff members and signs with guns do not lend to the type of culture and environment we want students and staff members operating in. School Resource Officers (SRO) should be carrying firearms on any regular basis, not staff members.
It has been problematic finding a replacement for our SRO. In the very near future, we will be meeting with Chief Clay and Sheriff Babcock to work on a solution to this problem. Olney I.S.D. is determined to get this position filled. Maintaining the presence of an SRO is the best fit and best practice for our district.
We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with your children. The bottom line is that we are in the kid business and, big picture, we care about two things. We first make sure children are safe and sound then we educate.