Wednesday, April 4, 2018

School Safety

Senate File 2364 was passed out of both the House and Senate unanimously and has subsequently been transmitted to the governor where I have little doubt she will sign the legislation into law. This bill will require all school districts in Iowa to ensure they have a high quality safety plan to address natural disasters and active shooters by the end of fiscal year 2019. I was very surprised to learn that in a recent state survey, only 9 percent of Iowa schools have what is deemed a high quality plan. I am very supportive of this legislation and look forward to collaborating with all respective state and local agencies to make certain our plan meets this high quality threshold.

Ensuring our students safety while at school is of paramount concern to us. I was happy to field the phone calls and email from many of you inquiring about our school safety plan and procedures in the wake of the school shooting in Florida a few weeks back. As a start, you are probably aware that all doors to the attendance centers are locked during the day. In order to gain entry, patrons need to buzz in at the camera by the door where the administrative assistant can grant access. While this is a very visible safety measure, there are many other components in place that are not easily seen and are unknown to the general public.

Here is what I can share with you. Our school district has in place a comprehensive school safety plan that incorporates detailed procedures for a variety of emergency scenarios. The most recent iteration of this plan was updated and communicated with our faculty and staff at the beginning of the school year. Working in concert with our local law enforcement agencies and the Black Hawk County Sheriff's office, our school district utilizes a response to an active shooter known as ALICE. This acronym stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate. This type of response is different from what schools employed in the past, which was to barricade and hide, and has not been proven to be the best option. Instead, our plan relies on an approach that provides the teacher with options in ALICE to be made based on the situation. Teachers and staff are receiving training about what these options look like in the classroom.

Again, this plan was rolled out to staff at the beginning of this school year. In the interim we have had local law enforcement agencies working with our school safety officer, Mr. Bell to fine tune the plan and identify weaknesses. By the end of April, the staff will participate in additional training that will include practical demonstrations for each option and a possible tabletop exercise. It is our intention by the end of the school year to introduce age appropriate components and procedures of this plan to students. This is a challenging topic to address with students and we intend to be both timely and sensitive with our planning and implementation.

As our plan is rolled out to the students additional information will be coming. If you have questions, by all means reach out to us. But, keep in mind some portions of our plan will need to remain confidential.

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