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School district works to insure safety

by Maggie Allen

To feel safe is a basic human need. This is as true, if not more so, for students as for adults. It doesn’t matter how many ways or times an academic content area is approached, students cannot learn if they do not feel safe. Sadly, the truth is there is no fail-safe way to protect all students at all times.

Because of the escalation in violence on campuses nationwide, schools have become more proactive in order to protect students in every way possible. Douglas County School District is no exception.

For many years, DCSD has enforced a zero tolerance policy with regard to drugs, alcohol and weapons. As it became evident the amount of intimidation, harassment and bullying among students was increasing, the district developed strict policies to address these issues. Most of these incidents occur between classes and in areas such as restrooms and locker rooms where it is difficult to provide adequate supervision.

Students must be taught the difference between “snitching” and protecting themselves and their peers. They must take responsibility for their own well-being by talking to the appropriate adults when a potential problem arises. Charlie Condron, Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School principal, summed it up when he said, “(Students) must be part of a system which works to protect them.”

Task forces at the district’s middle schools have been formed to address the issue of bullying. Students are developing strategies for their peers to use to prevent bullying and to teach them what to do should they become the victims of bullying. A “peer court” has been established at Douglas High School to deal specifically with issues of student intimidation.

All of the district’s schools are stressing student and staff safety and are encouraging students and staff to communicate potential problems to the appropriate person who can effectively deal with the issue. The schools’ crisis and emergency policies have been reviewed, updated and shared with students and staff in an effort to ensure all occupants in a school building know what to do in case of an emergency.

The School Safety Task Force was formed in 1993. It is now meeting with renewed vigor to look at safety plans and make them more effective. The task force is comprised of school staff, law enforcement and judicial officers and juvenile probation representatives.

The sheriff’s office has always been extremely responsive to the needs of our schools. Not wishing to leave anything undone that could possibly enhance safety for our students, the district and the sheriff’s office have expanded those cooperative efforts. The district recently provided the sheriff’s office with complete sets of floor plans and keys for all of our schools. Tactical training will be provided at the schools so, should there be a crisis, the response can be even more efficient. Through the efforts of the sheriff’s office, students can now report potential dangers, anonymously, by dialing 783-SAFE (7233) – a 24-hour teen hotline.

When we see something happening of which we disapprove, it is often difficult to speak out. However, by modeling this behavior for our students, perhaps they would be less reluctant to step forward when they witness a student exhibiting inappropriate behavior. We, as adults, can contribute by listening to the young people we know and showing we care. The problem can then be reported to the proper authorities and, perhaps, we will prevent a tragedy.

As with most societal problems, a solution to the problem comes from the society as a whole. While we can never ensure our students will always be completely safe, we need to know we have done everything possible to increase their chances for a full and productive life. After all, our children are our most important resource.