SUPERINTENDENT UPDATE

School security is top of mind

March 2, 2018

This week, the students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School returned to their campus. We all have been affected by the atrocious event that unfolded there in Parkland, Florida two weeks ago, and my thoughts are of the community and all families who have experienced tragedies such as this as they try to find a new normal.

As we think about what the Parkland community is going through, it gives every district across the country a definitive reason to pause and re-examine school security, and our district is no different. In fact, school safety and security is regularly examined in Battle Ground Public schools.

Since the Parkland shooting, we have received many comments, questions and concerns about safety and security. Some of it is likely because our bond did not pass last month. It fell short of the required 60 percent supermajority by a couple hundred votes. The bond would have replaced our four oldest primary and middle schools that lack modern security features, and would have provided for improvements such as internal classroom door locks and card-controlled entrances at our other schools.

Regardless, I want to assure you that the safety of our students and staff is a top priority in Battle Ground Public Schools. Our older buildings may not have the advantages of the most modern security features, but our staff is committed to being proactive in our emergency preparedness practices. We have thorough plans in place should safety be compromised in our schools; we regularly train and drill staff and students on various emergency scenarios; and our Emergency Preparedness team works with local law enforcement, fire, and emergency personnel to regularly update and improve our plans and procedures.

The following are some of the protocols we have in place:

  • Battle Ground schools have procedures for securing buildings and evacuating students during emergency events such as fire, natural catastrophes, and lockdowns, and students and staff practice these procedures regularly—18 times every year at each school.
  • All staff must wear identification badges during the day, and visitors must check into the school office and also wear identification while on campus.
  • The district has two armed law enforcement personnel, called school resource officers (SROs), who have a presence at all our schools. The district partners with the Battle Ground Police Department for our officer stationed at Battle Ground High School and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office to serve Prairie High School and our southern schools.
  • A team of security personnel monitor both Battle Ground and Prairie high schools during the school day.
  • Security cameras are placed in various locations throughout the interior and exterior of our buildings.
  • Anonymous tip reporting through SafeSchools Alert.
  • A computerized phone calling system allows us to notify families about emergency situations in a timely manner.
  • Office staff only release students to adults who are on their Emergency Contact list and ask for identification.
  • Every school has an automated external defibrillator (AED) on site, and at least one was used last year to save the life of a community member.

Still, one of the best practices in the Battle Ground district is prevention. Battle Ground has a strategic goal dedicated to supporting the physical, emotional and social well-being of students. We strive to know every student and create compassionate environments in which all students feel safe and supported. We have prevention/intervention specialists and school counselors at our middle and high schools, school psychologists at each of our schools, and are working to hire school counselors for our primary schools. We have a process for assessing students who may be a threat to themselves or others and have partnered with resources to get students help.

We have enlisted not only the support of our staff, but also have sought the help of community members and partners. We have implemented programs that educate students and parents on how to recognize the signs of youth in crises and how to get them help. (Parents and community members can sign up for upcoming Youth Mental Health First Aid classes online through our partner Connect Battle Ground at ymhfabg.com).

We also ask that students and parents report anything concerning. Often students will see or hear about a potential threat before school personnel become aware. You can report safety concerns anonymously via text, email, phone or the Web using our SafeSchools Alert reporting system: https://bgsd-wa.safeschoolsalert.com.

It’s important that parents talk to their students about school safety concerns that they may have and encourage them to share these concerns with school counselors or administrators.

In Battle Ground Public Schools, we keep school safety and security at top of mind no matter what is happening across the country. We know it is important to our families, too. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,
Mark Ross, Superintendent
Battle Ground Public Schools
ross.mark@battlegroundps.org

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