I am saddened by the horrific tragedy experienced in Parkland, Florida last week and my heart goes out to the community, students and families. Unfortunately, I believe this shooting once again calls to light that these events will likely continue until we develop a societal solution to the abundance of weapons that bad people can acquire. Gone are the days when schools were accessible to all. Instead, we have secured all our entrances, we have adults patrolling our halls and we employ Security Entrance Monitors with access to criminal data bases, allowing us to screen individuals for safety and security risks. We have trained intensively on threat assessment so that we can recognize potential adverse behavior as early as possible. We have extensive programs in place to teach our students about appropriate relationships and proactive strategies, to help our students deal with behavior issues and to creative positive environments
Is it enough? I feel our schools are as safe as they can be. We address issues as they are observed and reported and intervene quickly when a student creates a threatening situation. Our kids are wonderful in providing information to staff and administrators when they read, hear or see something that is of concern. In that regard, our system works. However, it is next to impossible to monitor the hundreds and thousands of social media posts to try and discern what is credible and what is not. Apparently that was the case in Florida last week. Schools simply do not have the people or resources to be watchful over comments made outside of school – 24/7 –and to be held accountable for what may spill over from personal time to school time.
Even before Parkland, school security was a hot issue around the country. Some school districts have chosen to “lock down” their schools around the clock, which is extremely difficult to do when students are arriving and leaving school. Others have engaged companies that monitor chatter over social media. While these companies and programs have been around for a number of years, school districts have been reluctant to use this strategy with concern about perceptions that privacy may be threatened. Perhaps we will begin to view privacy as secondary to safety. I am sure this conversation will continue.
Now more than ever, we appreciate all the comments and questions we receive from our community – and the support. I hope that our “thank you Lincoln” message has been well received. We are a very successful school district in large part due to the tremendous support we receive from a community with the highest of expectations but also with a willingness to help. It is evident every single day in every one of our more than 60 schools and programs.
Please know we also appreciate the many questions, concerns and suggestions you submit to us personally, in emails, on the phone and via “Connect Now” (https://www.lps.org/connect/now/). With a button located on our website, your query is routed to the department or person most closely aligned with the issue and a response will be crafted in 1-2 days. We have found this invaluable in responding effectively to community members and in getting the “pulse” of the community conversation. Keep those questions and comments coming.
Just a little more than three months of school to go,