Sharpening Our Protective and Vigilant Mindset
One year ago today, my Newsbits message was titled “This is Not Normal” as our nation came to terms with the school shooting at Sante Fe High School in Texas on May 18, 2018. Sadly, again this May, we mourn more student deaths at the Highlands STEM School in Colorado. There is no doubt that our nerves are raw; that the worry is real. We felt that last week as GFHS dealt with a threat of violence.
As I read last week in “What Educators Need to Know About the Latest School Shooting,” it is important that school districts stay the course on proven safety practices. The Director of the Virginia Youth Violence Project said, “It’s really important that schools have good solid training in responding to student threats so they don’t overreact when students make alarming statements. We see them all the time, and in the context of a recent shooting, those statements seem very troubling and disturbing. More often than not what they reflect is a student who is frustrated and needs assistance.” Just last week, the GFHS staff did just that. They didn’t overreact despite social media pressures based on inaccurate information.
Speaking of pressure, every school shooting causes increasing demands on school districts to harden our schools. While it is understandable that people want to see physical evidence that schools are secure, experts remind us that these measures are limited in their prevention efficacy. The article notes, “Behind the fortified entry ways, additional surveillance cameras, single-point entries, and scanning driver licenses, what matters are the steps educators are taking to build environments to address things like bullying and student mental health concerns, threat assessments, staff training to spot early warning signs, and creating a culture in which students feel comfortable seeking help and reporting their or their classmates’ concerns so that problems can be identified before they escalate into violence.” (Emphasis added by me.) In other words, as I wrote a year ago, it’s about relationships. It’s about taking care of each other, and treating ALL who walk through our doors with respect.
Even as we approach the end of this school year, I thank you for continuing to foster those relationships; for making all feel heard, cared for and nurtured. I know you will continue to empower students and staff to say something to a trusted adult anytime and every time something is amiss, or if they are afraid. Assure them that we will listen and act. Any threat to our students, staff or schools, should be taken seriously and reported to the Great Falls Police Department immediately. It is always right to SAY SOMETHING.
As we celebrate success and accomplishments these final fourteen days, we focus on what is right and good in our world, while sharpening our protective and vigilant mindset. We can and must do both.
Take care. Be safe. Stay well.