The unfortunate events of December 14thin Newtown, CT, have forced us to pause and reflect on the truly important things in our lives. I am often amazed that in time of tragedy, we as a nation turn to God and pray for hope, direction, and answers. While in my opinion, we should spend more time praying before these tragic events happen. I often pray for the safety of our students because I am very aware that there are hundreds of things in a school district that could lead to accidents and tragic events that I cannot control.
As a district, we practice safety drills every month. We most recently updated our lockdown protocol this fall due to the latest information from state and federal officials. The Richwood Police Department, Union County Sherriff’s Office, and North Union Schools meet quarterly to discuss threat assessments to the district. Local law enforcement also practice drills in our facilities on weekends and during evening hours to strengthen their knowledge and better familiarize themselves with our building’s layouts. North Union was the first district in Union county to do active shooter drills and other emergency drills with the Union County Emergency Management Team (UCEMT). The UCEMT received a grant to review all school safety plans in Union County in the summer of 2012. After reviewing North Union’s plans, UCEMT has provided some minor recommendations that we are currently correcting in our written documents.
Here are some ways, as a community, that we can work together and help improve the safety of our students.
1. We have learned that in most school shootings, the shooter has shared their intentions with someone days or weeks before the events take place. Please take threats, rumors, gossip, Facebook posts, and “tweets”, seriously. If you hear of any threats to students, staff or buildings, do not ignore them. Notify school officials or local law enforcement as soon as possible to ensure a prompt investigation.
2. School buildings simply cannot be locked down 100% of the time. With games, extra-curricular events, and community events, we do our absolute best to monitor any and all activities that take place in our buildings and at all of our facilities. Be vigilant and look for things that are out of place. Doors that are propped open and suspicious bags are not “normal” in our buildings.
3. Please assist us in teaching your children to “Stop Bullying”. Shooters often feel like outcasts from school. When other students befriend them, or stand up for them, it shows they are important. This can have a positive impact on any student.
4. Check your child’s Facebook and any other social networking sites such as Twitter, regularly. Please make sure your child is not being cyber-bullied or acting as a cyber-bully. Social networking has greatly changed our society and we all must be responsible in ensuring it is a safe place for children. There are predators luring children to unclean sites and other dangers on the internet and it is very important that we as adults are diligent to warn our children and educate them on the safe use of the internet.
As a community of schools, churches, and organizations, we must fill our children with love and self acceptance. We must encourage them to talk to a counselor, a pastor, an adult, or someone else they feel confident in trusting when they feel stress, are afraid, or are frustrated with life. We must all look for warning signs and notify authorities when we hear or see something that could be a potentially dangerous situation to the children in this community. May we all look for ways to reduce children being exposed to violence and evil and fill their world with the characteristics of love, compassion and empathy for others to help create a stronger community, school system, and society.
Dr. Rick Smith