In today’s social media world, we hear of school threats and acts of aggression on a nearly constant pace. The questions always come up after these events, is my child safe?, what can we do to stop this? … and on and on. I have thought a lot about this topic, and unfortunately, as part of my job, I have to study these events and try to learn from them. I wanted to touch on a few points that I believe are key to school safety here or anywhere.
First of all, Delaware City Schools are safe. This blanket statement cannot be said for all school districts, but I can truly say that here, it is the case. The reason for this is a strong working relationship between the school district and the first responders. Both administrations are committed to providing the safest environment possible and addressing issues immediately when they arise.
The philosophy of the district and school-based law enforcement is fluid. This means that we cannot sit back and rely on plans that were made years ago and appear to be solid. It requires a constant reassessment of goals, training, trends and best practice approaches. The school resource officers are well trained and tenured. They are the driving force behind constantly readdressing their own training and taking that training to the staff and students of each school, public and private. They are extensively involved with day-to-day operations and integral in all facets of safety planning, training and implementation.
Next, all stakeholders are always in search of an all–hazard approach to safety and integration of school officials and first responders and anyone else that may come to play a part in planning, response or recovery. This is not only applicable to “active aggressors,” but to all forms of medical, natural and man-made disasters. This philosophy allows us to train staff in CPR, first aid, bleeding control, opioid response, behavioral health issues, etc. These emergencies are statistically much more likely to occur than an aggressor incident.
Finally, there is buy in on all levels and all departments when it comes to layering safety at the schools. All recognize the need and have committed to it. Counselors and other staff members address behavioral concerns and work to promote a healthy, balanced, inviting and “bully-free” place. This is a huge task in itself considering all the kids and backgrounds that are under one roof. Custodians, cooks and maintenance seek out and report safety issues that are found. Police work to provide current, applicable training across the board, and support staff in their efforts to create a positive environment. Passerby’s and non-school related persons report suspicious behaviors and people outside of the school building. I see staff members receive complaints from parents and guardians and address these issues swiftly. I also can see the process is frustrating, due to legal constraints and a parent may not be able to see the consequences from a reported issue, but it is addressed.
School safety is a constant process. It does not reach a point and stop, and there is nothing else that can be done. It is an ever-evolving process that requires everyone’s attention and efforts. The school is in the community, it is the community. If you see something, whether it be in person, or online, or know something, do not dismiss the fact that you felt something was odd or out of place. Say something.
John Hartman is a member of the City of Delaware Police Department. He currently serves as a school resource officer.