Miami Trace Local Schools held a “School Safety Forum” on Thursday at the high school auditorium to talk to parents and listen to their concerns about how the district keeps the students safe.
Superintendent David Lewis began the event with a welcome and introduction of the various members of the school board of education and faculty, as well as other guests to the event. Lewis then began a presentation which showed the district’s safety improvements that have been made during the past five years. Improvements such as a full-time student safety coordinator, a full-time school resource and DARE Officer, 42 employees trained in the ALICE Protocol, the creation of building level safety teams, introduction of classroom door lock upgrades and many more showed off a robust system in place.
“These are a lot of things we have put in place throughout the last few years,” Lewis said. “We have spent somewhere between $300,000 and $350,000 on school safety improvements. It has been a priority in this district and it will continue to be a priority because unfortunately, the world we live in, we have to think of this. When many of us went to school that was not a concern. Hopefully this shows the community that there are plans and we are continuing to listen to people and look for better ways to keep the staff and students safe.”
Jack Anders, student attendance and safety coordinator, spoke to the crowd next to introduce himself and explain his role in the district. In addition to truancy issues, Anders works closely with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office and school resource officer and DARE instructor, deputy Monty Coe, to identify potential safety issues in the schools. Anders said he speaks regularly with principals and administration about safety concerns they have to figure out if Coe and himself need to get involved.
“We go back to safety committees, talk with staff, and make sure what all we can do to make sure the schools are safer,” Anders said. “At the end of the day my job is to make sure the students and the staff go home safe. I know for deputy Coe and myself, that is our major emphasis.”
After explaining his job duties, Anders explained some of the safety aspects to the community members in attendance, including additional information with the ALICE training. According to Anders, ALICE is not a linear approach to safety. The program gives faculty and students options on what they should be doing during an emergency.
“What we do now when we run drills, which is another one of my responsibilities, we may give the teachers different scenarios,” Anders said. “We want to see how the staff will respond, how the students will respond. We want to give them choices. Are the students and teachers going to lockdown in the classroom? Will they take the chance to safely evacuate? ALICE stands for alert lockdown inform counter and evacuate. The one thing we emphasize probably the most of all is to evacuate. If you can get out, go, take off. We are not telling you the only thing you can do is lock your door and hide up against the side of the wall. ALICE just gives them options.”
Another addition to the safety system at Miami Trace, which is currently in the works, is a new “STOPit App.” Anders explained that this app gives students or staff the capability of anonymously and instantaneously reporting issues they find. Whether a student takes notice of an act or is a victim of harassment or bullying, or a teacher needs to alert administration of a threat, this app will give them an immediate line of contact with someone who can help. Following Anders was deputy Coe, who briefly explained his position in the school before Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth spoke to the crowd.
“We are so fortunate that the high school, middle school and elementary school are on one campus,” Stanforth said. “From a safety standpoint, if we are out here we can get from one building to another in a matter of minutes, regardless of where we are at. We now have a deputy on campus during every school day. The idea is to get the kids used to a deputy so that they aren’t only seeing us when things are bad. Now all of the kids can get to know deputy Coe. It is a comfort level they can have and the kids or staff know when they see him around the building it is not because of a crisis, it is just deputy Coe coming around.”
On March 14, Lewis announced during the event, Miami Trace High School students will be leading a vigil and program in memory of the students who were shot and killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Lewis wanted to address concerns about the program and emphasized with the crowd that it was not going to be an anti-gun rally. He explained that the students wanted to honor the lives that were lost and stand up against school violence. Participation for the event will be voluntary and high school principal Rob Enochs and Lewis will be working with student leaders on the details.
Finally, the community had a chance to ask questions of the Miami Trace Local Schools administration and Fayette County Sheriff’s Office staff about concerns they may have with the safety of the schools. Many asked for clarification on topics or discussed safety devices used in the schools. One question Lewis anticipated was also addressed: Where does the administration stand on arming teachers?
“We have two individuals on campus at all times who have a gun,” Lewis said. “Personally, I am against arming teachers with guns. We have had those conversations with our board of education and with law enforcement, but none of us are quite there yet, thinking it is a good idea to arm teachers. I think in the conversations we have had, we feel that more bad could come of it than good. There are more districts allowing it, but most often these districts are doing that because they have slow response times from authorities. We have a pretty quick response here and within two minutes, I think we would have numerous people at our buildings who could help.”
For more information, contact the Miami Trace Local Schools at (740) 335-3010.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy