This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.
I have obtained a copy of a message that was reportedly sent from Mt. Diablo Superintendent Steven Lawrence to district staff Dec. 14, in light of the Connecticut shooting. I am posting the (excerpted) message below, so district parents can see what was directed, encouraged and/or suggested to staff regarding school safety.
"Subject: Connecticut Tragedy
"Good afternoon, This morning a shooting happened at an elementary school in Connecticut. At this time, information about this incident is still developing, so we do not have all of the factual information. However, we do know that along with the recent shooting in the mall in Oregon, people's sense of concern is very high. First, I would like to thank you for all of the things that you do on a daily basis to ensure that students are safe. Second, in order to assure parents that we are doing everything that we can to ensure their children's safety, I am encouraging site administrators, teachers and support staff members to continue to implement the following practices:
"1. During times of tragedy it is paramount that site administrators and other staff members are highly visible in order to reassure parents that our schools are safe places.
"2. Ensure that any visitor on campus either has a MDUSD badge or a visitor badge which indicates they checked in at the front office. For parents who regularly volunteer, many sites have badges that they pick up and drop off in the front office that indicates they are a parent volunteer. If your site does not have volunteer badges, please create them.
"3. To help create a positive classroom environment and help with overall school safety, we encourage teachers to greet students at their classroom door during the passing time before shutting and locking the door. When students are in the classroom, teachers should keep their doors shut and locked except during passing time.
"4. Principals should regularly review the school site safety plan and school safety procedures with the entire staff throughout the school year. Also, parents should be invited to attend School Site Council meetings where the safety plans are reviewed and updated.
"5. Some of our schools have volunteer parent patrols that circulate throughout the campus during instructional time as well as passing periods, brunch, and lunch. Best practice for parent patrols is that parents patrol in pairs and be given a walkie-talkie to communicate with administrators, campus/noon-duty supervisors, and front office staff.
"6. Taking accurate student attendance each period is critical to assure that we know where their children are at all times. Also, accurate data of students who leave campus early is critical especially in cases where students live in multiple households.
"7. In times of an emergency it is equally important to know the whereabouts of school staff members. Therefore, any time a school site staff member needs to leave campus during the instructional day, it is critical that he/she informs someone in the front office.
"8. In case you need guidance on how to help your students and their parents cope with the tragedy of the Connecticut massacre, CDE (California Department of Education) has some guidance online at www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/cp/tragedy.asp
"For a majority of our school sites, the above list is just a reminder of all the things you already do to ensure our students are safe and accounted for at all times. A districtwide phone call will go out ... to all parents informing them of the tragedy and the steps our schools are taking to ensure their child's safety. Again, thank you for all that you do.
"Sincerely, Steven Lawrence, Superintendent"
Many of the items listed do not appear to be required, but instead are suggestions. Also, I have heard that not all schools have doors that can be locked from the inside with a key.
Do you believe the school board should establish clear policies regarding safety protocols?