The Hawkeye

Superintendent clarifies school safety procedures in response to recent tragedies

By Nolan DeGarlais, News Editor

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In the aftermath of the recent school shooting tragedies in Florida and Texas, Edmonds School District (ESD) Superintendent Kris McDuffy issued an email letter to ESD families clarifying school district school safety plans and procedures. The letter was published in response to increasing concern by ESD families over safety in schools over the past few months.

In the letter, McDuffy emphasized the role that all involved in education, including parents and students, have to play in ensuring a safe school environment is maintained.

“It requires our joint efforts as a community to prepare and respond as necessary,” McDuffy said. “We need to be prepared and responsive to the best of our abilities. We are in this together.”

McDuffy further urged students and families to communicate with school and ESD staff about any possible threats to the safety of the school of which they may become aware.

“If you see something, say something,” McDuffy said. “For immediate danger or a life-threatening emergency always call 911. For other situations, students can and should communicate their concerns to the school.”

Additionally, if a student or family member wants to report a threat anonymously or does not want to contact school officials directly, McDuffy presented the option of providing information via the Safe Schools Alert tip reporting service, which works for school districts throughout Washington state. The Safe Schools Alert service, which can be contacted at 425-551-7393, is an anonymous and toll-free service available 24 hours a day. All messages from the service are documented and shared with ESD officials, who can then investigate and take action on any potential threats that have been reported.

Although many in the ESD community may feel helpless due to the continued violence on school campuses in America, McDuffy argued in her letter that community vigilance and action is a proven method of ensuring school safety. McDuffy contended that through widespread community awareness, ESD schools can effectively counter threats of violence.  

“School safety is also a responsibility that extends beyond the doors of our schools,” McDuffy said. “There are many instances of threats of school violence across the nation that have been prevented by the collaboration of students, staff, families, law enforcement and community members.”

Tragedies such as the shooting that occurred at Sante Fe High School in Texas on May 18 draw attention to school safety procedures and McDuffy hoped to address some of these newly raised concerns with her letter to ESD families. However, she made sure to let families know that ESD staff are continually thinking about student safety at school and looking to improve school district safety procedures.

“I want Edmonds School District families to know that safety is our top priority every day, not just in the wake of incidents like those that occurred last week,” McDuffy said. “School safety is a responsibility that requires ongoing attention, practice, and improvement.”

According to McDuffy, Washington state regulations and district policy ensure that the ESD works in close cooperation with local emergency services and conducts a certain number of specific emergency drills each school year, including shelter in place, lockdown and evacuation drills. Additionally, the ESD ensures that each school has staff trained in first aid, search and rescue, counseling, psychology and the use of defibrillators.

Finally, McDuffy hoped to provide some comfort to families by providing information on the producers set in place by the ESD in the case of an actual emergency. During an emergency on a school campus, the ESD would make use of its emergency communication system. McDuffy assured families that notifications would be sent out to ESD families about any emergency situation within the school district, and the ESD would be able to provide extensive communication and support to ESD students and families during and after an emergency.

“Please ensure that your email and phone contact information is up to date in Skyward Family Access, so you receive important, time-sensitive announcements,” McDuffy said. “These text, phone and email announcements will provide as much information as we can about the nature of the emergency, what you should do and how the emergency does or does not impact your student.”

The emergency communication system utilized by the ESD is known as SchoolMessenger, a system which can communicate through as many as 10,000 emails, texts and phone calls per minute. Currently, receiving text messages from the ESD is an opt-in service, which can be signed up for by texting “Y” or “Yes” to the short code number 67587.

Notifications would be sent to ESD families if a lockdown were ever to take place. Most lockdowns are the result of police or emergency activity in neighborhoods surrounding a school and not due to an unidentified intruder on campus. Family members should not come to the school campus if they are a notified of a lockdown, as visitors arriving on campus can interfere with emergency response and will have no access to the locked building.

If the school campus is determined unsafe and has to be evacuated, families will be notified of designated reunification sites where they can pick up their children. Family members should only respond to a reunification site during an emergency event and under no circumstances try to pick up their child from the school campus after an evacuation has occurred. Students will only be allowed to leave with parents and guardians authorized in the Skyward system after being identified with ID. Friends or relatives cannot pick up children unless they are registered as an emergency contact in Skyward.

ESD policy also urges families to create emergency communication plans to ensure that families can stay in contact during an emergency event, during or outside of school hours.

In the event of a violent intruder scenario on a school campus, the ESD adopted the ALICE Institute program based on the federal “Run, Hide, Fight” model during the 2015-2016 school year. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate, and is meant to provide students with more options during an emergency scenario. The ALICE steps are not linear and may be followed in any order by students and staff as an emergency scenario unfolds.

“Through this change, we are empowering our staff and students with more safety options by ensuring that they are educated and prepared,” the ESD said in a statement. “Past tragedies have demonstrated that simply having students lockdown and attempt to hide is not always the most appropriate response.”

Students are instructed to utilize text or messaging services to inform their families about their status during an emergency scenario. Families should not engage students in lengthy conversations if contacted during an emergency, as this may hinder the safety of the students. If an intruder event was to occur, some students may evacuate the campus and make arrangements with their families to be picked up away from the school, but families should not pick up students from the campus during an intruder event unless specifically instructed to do so by the ESD emergency communication system.

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About the Writer
Nolan DeGarlais, News Editor

Nolan DeGarlais is in his sophomore year and it is his second year as a member of the Hawkeye. His current position is News Editor, which primarily involves the writing and editing of news stories for the Hawkeye. This year, Nolan hopes to write several stories for the Hawkeye and cover many different school events and developments that have the potential to impact the school. In his free time, Nolan enjoys reading and going hiking.

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The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.
Superintendent clarifies school safety procedures in response to recent tragedies