Marc Barraco of WKTV asked Mr. Rich a few very specific questions as a followup to all that took place at Jarvis Middle School. We shared those responses with people in attendance at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting.
What are some of the new measures being put into place at Jarvis to better protect students?
The unfortunate events of the last two days told us that the protocols we have in place work to keep our students safe. There are areas where we will refine, but the core of our safety plan is strong.
It is important to recognize we are dealing with two issues. First are outside threats – those horrific tragedies that we have seen play out when someone gains entry into a school with the clear intent to do harm. We have security equipment and procedures to minimize that threat. Our building project includes specific improvements such as improved entries and more cameras to limit external access. We train staff and we practice emergency responses with our students, which everyone followed magnificently throughout these two days.
Second are student actions designed to gain attention or to disrupt our school process. Monday’s and Tuesday’s lockdown and lockouts were the result of students making false threats against the school. We believed from the beginning that the threats were not credible, but we cannot risk the welfare of our students and staff. In full cooperation with law enforcement, we chose the most secure response to the individual threats. We recognize these actions may frighten children or parents, but believe those moments of uncertainty are a small price to ensure safety. We will always err on the side of caution and safety.
A bigger issue is how we will reach students before they make such poor choices. We have character education programs, counseling, mental health awareness programs, extracurricular activities, family outreach events, etc. Our administration, teachers, and staff will be exploring ways we can do more to reach more children.
How are you handling complaints or concerns that are being sent to the school by parents?
We have had few complaints or concerns made directly to our school. Most of what we hear is on social media. Those comments and questions focus on:
- Our decision to not lock down other buildings (Law enforcement was confident that the threat was limited to one building.)
- Our policies for dealing with these students (see below)
- Parents’ desire for more information during and after the incident (We work with law enforcement to deliver a message that shares information about the status of the school and safety of the children and staff. We share nothing that could potentially interfere or prolong the investigation, or provide information about our school and procedures that would invite copycats or worse.)
- A desire for punishment. (We cannot reveal the identity of any minor or the specific school consequences for these actions. The courts will determine the legal consequences.)
- Frustration. (Our actions and communications focus first on students and their safety. That is little consolation for parents who are frightened for their children.)
We are working on communications to address some of these concerns. We recognize nothing we say will make everyone happy, but we will try.
Are you planning on holding any special meetings during the school day to talk to students about the recent events?
Our middle school administrative team and police representatives met with each grade after Monday’s incident. They stressed the seriousness of the offense, the cost in time and money caused by the disruption, and offered counseling to anyone needing it.
Are you bringing in counselors to talk with students about their concerns over their safety?
We have a full team of guidance counselors, social workers, and psychologists within the district available to any student or staff member.
How often have you been in touch with police regarding the recent arrests…how are they advising you to handle it?
We worked with law enforcement throughout each incident. It was the cooperative effort of police investigators, school employees, and students that eventually brought each situation to a fortunate end. As a school district, we will follow district policies concerning the students’ educations. We trust the courts to determine the legal consequences.
If another incident occurs, how will you respond?
Our staff will respond as we have – we will work to keep students and staff safe. Our middle school principal summed it up eloquently in a message she sent home to all Jarvis families. That message is posted on the district website.