Monday, December 17, 2012

Learning from tragedy

Friday, December 14th is now added to a growing list of atrocities that have occurred in schools due to gross acts of violence. Unfortunately, I cannot categories this as a random act of violence because as more details come out, the more it is discovered that there were big flashing neon signs pointing to help that was needed by the person who committed this heinous act.

Patrick Larkin posted "Back to School With New Worries, But the Same Plan" with a link to his blog post on this tragedy. It is a very thoughtful post about how he is dealing with this event, both with his children and the students in his care. He provides two key quotes about how parents and educators deal can help young people deal with the aftermath of this event. I will not provide spoilers, you will just have to read his post.

A friend of mine on Facebook posted that no child should have to worry if their school is safe or not...we need safe schools. While I understand his intent, the implications of his post may go off course. Our schools are safe.

Reactionaries over the weekend were stating that we need more armed security in schools to even the extreme that teachers should be carrying weapons. I have worked in schools with armed security forces (off-duty police) who assist the school as a part of a police liaison program. The goal of the police liaison is not to have a cop on duty with a gun, but to provide a positive interaction between students, community members, and the police to help build relationships. We had questioned whether we should install metal detectors at the entrances and use them at all home sporting events. We have, thankfully, not installed them because of the potential change in climate that it would create. As a school and district, we wanted to focus on creating a culture and climate of learning and safety. Added to that, we have spent a large amount of time and effort in developing policies and procedures to follow in the event of a crisis.

I want to comment on the title of his blog post: New worries, but the same plan. When we examine the events and our own crisis plans and drills, we find that the school did what they could to protect their staff and students. After this event, another plan goes into effect to help counsel the students and staff and provide grief support. The plan is to provide a quality educational environment that supports the academic and Social/Emotional learning for students. His title is accurate, the same plan in in place because it was not the plan that failed.

As an Associate Principal, I had the opportunity to attend an administrator academy on security and loss prevention that was put on by Paul Timm from Reta Security. Paul discussed how most people think of loss prevention as insurance and recovering tangible items that might be stolen. The most important items found in schools are the students. The crisis plan that goes into effect now for the students and staff for Newtown will help protect those students from the emotional damage.

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