Last Thursday we had a meeting with the superintendent of our children’s school district, but when we arrived, there had been some mix up on their end and we had to reschedule. Today was that rescheduled meeting.
I want to say again that both my husband and I are very happy with this district. We like the teachers and the education our kids receive. We have always felt like a team with them and like the things we were concerned about did get addressed.
My husband and I got called back, but the superintendent was otherwise engaged and could not meet with us, so we met with the head of Public Relations and the head of Safety.
Very nice people. The meeting began with the head of safety telling us not worry. He told us that the school district has a plan and all is well. I said “Great, what is that plan?” He informed me that due to safety concerns I could not know the plan, but that there was indeed a plan.
I said , OK I understand that you do not want to divulge the ins and outs of your plan, but lets say there is an active shooter in the building of one of my kid’s schools, what are they, the kids, to do? He never really answered the question. He said that he and the principal work very closely with the sheriffs department and that each situation is handled on a case by case basis.
I tell him my concerns. I tell him that often times by the time the police show up the whole thing could be over or a lot destruction has already taken place. He disagreed. He told me statistically school violence in the form of bombs and shooters is low. I told him I understood that, but stats didn’t mean much to me. I told him my children are in these schools, so I would like to know what he and his staff are telling my children they should do if there turns out to be a real live shooter in their school. What are the teachers telling the kids during these drills (He told us they conduct 2 lock down drills and 2 evacuation drills a year. )?
Basically, I got more, we work on a case by case basis and very closely with the sheriff. He felt the sheriff was very proactive in dealing with these issues, but I couldn’t get him to answer what “proactive” means. Pretty much the kids are told in the event of an emergency they are to do what they are told by the teacher which is, to be quiet and not use cell phones. We were told that the teachers know what to do and we should trust that.
I tell them that it is mine and my husband’s responsibility to assure the safety of our children and when we decide to temporarily intrust their safety to someone else, it is still our responsibility to know if the person or people we are handing them over to, can in fact keep them safe or at least have a plan to do so and I would like to know what the teachers are told to do, generally speaking.
My husband adds, You say the teachers are trained. How? Do they know they have been trained? Do they actually know what to do? If we asked them would we get the same answer from each?
We were told that they have meetings on safety. They are required by state law to conduct a safety audit and from that they can determine what needs to be changed or improved. He said they have committee meetings and in those meetings they discuss how to handle a variety of issues and that there is a manual. My husband asked if the manual is on a shelf somewhere in the teacher’s room or is it a well worn out book that has been referenced again and again. He asked them if we sat down with each of our children’s teachers, would they know where the manual was and what was in it.
Both administers felt that the teachers would know what to do. They explained that some of the teachers participate in drills on the weekends with the local police to run through different scenarios. They actually conduct these at various schools. I liked that. All the schools except for the elementary school have one armed police officers on campus. I did not feel like we were getting the run around, but I also am not satisfied with the answers we got. I do think they have a plan and I do think they take it seriously, but I never did an answer on what my specific children are being taught and what exactly they are to do in a bomb threat situation or an active shooter event or even if there is a fire.
The safety person kept telling us that the principal and teachers know what to do, so I told him that I have been a substitute in this school district for 3 years and I have no idea what he wants me to do. I told him I have a plan, but I am not sure my plan meshes with his. I explained that I have never once been told what to do in any of those situations. He did admit that is a weak area and they are planning on working to fix that.
I did not expect to get satisfactory answers and I did not think one meeting would be enough, but it is a start and I feel good that we called for the meeting. I did ask how many other parents have called for a meeting on this subject and the answer was very few. They did say they were open to ideas, suggestion, and ways to improve. I gave them the article by Greg Ellifrtz. I told them I did not expect them to incorporate anything, but that I thought it was a good article and wondered what he thought. I mostly want to see if he reads it and if he will respond to me. If he does that will give me some indication that he takes our concerns seriously and is at least willing to actively dialog with us and not just pat us on the head.
Not entirely sure where we are going to go from here. I do know we will be asking each of our children’s teachers what the plan is. My husband suspects we will get 4 or 5 different answers. I also plan to do a better job of debriefing my kids after each of the drills are preformed. Asking them what happened leading up to the drill, what they were told to do, what they actually did. With my older children, I will ask what the people around them were doing, specifically the teachers, but also the other children. I am also going to reach out to other parents and get a feel for how they think the school district is doing and if any of them have ideas, concerns, suggestions. If any of them have thought about it at all. So, step one complete.