As the District began laying the foundation of our strategic plan for our continually evolving Framework for Excellence, one key component was ensuring that all students are educated in a safe and supportive learning environment. We never could have foreseen the importance of these guiding principles as they are now applicable in the wake of the recent school shootings in Florida and Maryland, and the increased frequency of these events across the country. One of our primary goals, defined in the Framework for Excellence, is Safety and Emergency Preparedness: The
District will prepare all students and staff for emergency situations and
ensure all facilities are well-maintained and equipped with enhanced security
Working in authentic partnership and collaboration with the Findlay and North Fayette police departments, we recognize the importance of a comprehensive and balanced approach to safety and security that incorporates both preventative measures and emergency response measures. We refer to our complimentary and comprehensive system as preventive C.A.R.E. measures and emergency S.M.A.R.T. measures. Preventive measures include actions and dispositions to minimize and reduce threats in a proactive manner. Emergency measures include actions and dispositions to rapidly identify, assess and react to a threat while minimizing that threat and preserving life.
preventive C.A.R.E. measures encompass Connections and Culture, Awareness,
Relationships, and Extra support. We know that the best preventive
measures include connecting students to school through activities, clubs
and school events. Research shows that students participating in co-curricular
and extracurricular activities are positively connected to the school community
and less likely to exhibit at-risk behaviors. Further, connecting parents to
the school and productively engaging with parents as partners reduce
risk-factors for students. Likewise, we establish school cultures where
students feel included, are celebrated and develop a sense of belonging.
Students who are excluded and isolated are disconnected from their school, the
adults within the school and often their peers. As such, they have increased
risk factors. We strive to create cultures of empathy and care where acts of
kindness abound from adults and students.
critical as a preventive measure as well. We message frequently that we teach
students, not content, and strongly emphasize an ethic of care for the whole
child. Students need to know how much we care before they can care about how
much we know. Our staff needs to be aware of each student’s social and
emotional needs as much as they are aware of their academic needs. Awareness
also embraces the concept of “See Something, Say Something.” As a community, we
need to be aware of what is happening around us and be vigilant about the
potential dangers facing our children, whether it be weapons in a home, use of
social media or a child’s mental health.
importance of relationships with our students is pivotal. Every West Allegheny
student should have at least one WASD employee in the school that they have a
strong relationship with and would feel comfortable going to for support. This
is a fundamental precept as we are continually working to build positive
adult-to-student and peer-to-peer relationships that empower students through
outreach groups such as Stand Together and the Friends of Rachel Club.
importance in our preventive C.A.R.E. measures is recognizing and providing some
students with appropriate extra support. We are continually assessing and
providing extra supports for those students who need it in a variety of ways,
including one-on-one counseling, groups, in-house mental health services and
more. Through our student services team, the District continues to offer
parent workshops on key issues facing our students, including mental health, suicide
awareness and social media. Addressing and nurturing the academic, social and
emotional needs of the whole child is a fundamental cornerstone of our C.A.R.E.
values and measures.
confident that if we continue our focus on preventative C.A.R.E. measures that
it will provide a proactive complement to our emergency S.M.A.R.T measures.
These encompass Security, Monitor, ALICE, Responsiveness, and Training, which
capture all elements of our extensive Emergency Operations Plan. The District
has dedicated significant resources to the physical safety of our schools over
the last four years. This includes an investment in enhanced security systems;
a school resource officer; enhanced camera systems that allow local law
enforcement 24/7 access to our cameras; RAPTOR, our visitor management system;
a strong and collaborative law enforcement partnership; consultations with
security experts; implementation of monthly drills, establishment of unit
captains and radio systems; and a comprehensive communications and
commit to daily monitoring of our security measures and active monitoring our
students, campuses and community. Students are greeted every morning by staff
and/or administrators before entering our schools while local law enforcement
have significantly increased their presence both inside and outside our schools
in an effort to build relationships with our students.
ALICE, Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate is the model we ascribe to for our emergency response in the event of a crisis situation. These drills have been a focal point for our emergency measures. We recognized early on the importance of ALICE and dedicated a large part of our 2016 back-to-school in-service days to practicing these drills where every staff member actively participated. Staff members were also trained on Stop the Bleed first aid procedures during the 2017 back-to-school in-service days. Our plans are enacted and practiced frequently to ensure appropriate Responsiveness and preparedness in any emergency situation.
Lastly, training is pivotal to ensure the safety of our staff and students in any critical situation. Training is ongoing, comprehensive and inclusive of both our emergency S.M.A.R.T. measures as well as our preventive C.A.R.E. measures. They must function dependent and simultaneous of the other to ensure the strength and integrity of our efforts to keep our students and staff safe.
More than ever before, we live in challenging times where our students are confronted with issues that most of us did not encounter while we were growing up. It is critical that we work in partnership to ensure the safety of our children, schools and community. Here are some simple things parents and guardians can do to support us in our safety and emergency preparedness goal:
• If you see something or hear something, say something to a school official or law enforcement.
• Be vigilant and aware of what students are bringing to school and/or extracurricular activities.
• Secure weapons in the home and check them daily.
• Monitor your child’s social media habits.
Talk with your child about these issues and assure them that the District has comprehensive safety and emergency plans in place.