Multiple topics discussed at school safety forum
Butler County Schools held its first ever "Safety Forum" on Thursday night, March 8, in the Butler County High School Auditorium. Scott Howard, Superintendent of Butler County Schools, addressed a large crowd along with a safety panel consisting of Director of Transportation Jeff Jennings, Morgantown Police Chief Giles Taylor and Butler County Sheriff Scottie Ward.
The forum began with Supt. Howard addressing the crowd and informing the audience that questions would be taken at the end.
"The purpose of tonight’s forum is to engage in discussion with our school community about our current safety measures and it’s an opportunity for you to share your feedback," said Howard. "After a brief presentation about our general safety measures, you will have an opportunity to approach the microphone and share your question, comment, or suggestion for helping us make your child and your family feel more comfortable in our schools."
Supt. Howard went on to explain that school safety begins with “culture - culture in the schools and culture in the community."
“School safety begins and ends with our school culture and it is enhanced by our emergency processes," said Howard. “It is critical for us to have school environments in which our students feel that they can confidentially report concerns. Parents need to feel this same comfort level. Our district has firm policies and protocols in place to foster positive social & emotional growth through program support and our guidance services.”
The importance of family involvement was stressed and the need to monitor the social media activity of their children.
“The most important thing we can do is to develop a caring relationship with our children, and be diligent in monitoring risky behavior,” added Howard.
Specific school procedures were not explained but the following general safety measures and protocols were identified and addressed:
-Secured Vestibule Entrances
-Utilize Hand Held Metal Detectors at Middle School and High School
-Daily Bag Checks at Middle School and High School
-Enter through the Office/ Sign-in Procedures
-Exterior Doors Locked
-Video Surveillance There is a computer program that is called Milestone software which enables school administrators to remotely access video footage inside schools while off-campus/ connect w/ law enforcement
-Law Enforcement Collaboration
-Full-Time SRO-two part-time SRO’s
-Emergency Response / Drills- communication radios
-ALICE Training-some staff have been trained but need to consider doing more
-Professional Development- Relationships
-KCSS Safety Audits-have completed one audit. Spoke to Jon Akers, director of Kentucky Center for School Safety. He indicated that if funding is available at the state level, his team would be able to do more of these in the future.
-Threat Assessment Teams-all schools have a threat assessment team.
Mr. Howard detailed that every threat is taken seriously and investigated thoroughly.
“Please know that all threats are investigated, no matter how credible and law enforcement is typically involved in the investigation. BCS are extremely fortunate to have a close working relationship with local law enforcement officials, both our Sheriff’s department and the city police. Schools utilize a discipline matrix that provides school administrators a framework of guidance for firm consequences within the code of conduct approved by the Board of Education," said Howard. “However, judgment is used during situations involving a threat. Because the reality is, many students make comments that can be interpreted as threatening in nature. Take a look at things your child posts on social media. Some students do this to create attention, albeit, a very immature way of doing so. Some do it as a call for help. Nonetheless, if a threat is substantiated, regardless of the intent, it is treated as a threat by school personnel.”
Mr. Howard answered many questions that have been asked prior to the forum.
--Why don’t the schools already have metal detectors?
--Will the Board install metal detectors?
--Will the district implement a clear or no backpack policy?
--Would you support arming teachers?
--If we increase the number of school resource officers at each of our schools, can the sheriff's department or city police department currently supply the demand?
--Why is there an increased presence of law enforcement after a threat is deemed not to be credible?
--Do we lose money when attendance is low due to a perceived threat?
--Lastly, what can the community do to help us?
Supt. Howard stressed, “Please, please don’t spread misinformation on social media and if you observe this, please don’t forward. This false information not only increases unnecessary anxiety on the part of our students and parents, but it actually strains our available resources because we spend significant time (at the school and district level) following up on any and all concerns."
After Howard finished the floor was open for questions to the panel. Several concerns and questions were expressed to the panel such as: How the district performs safety drills with their special needs students? Concerns will bus safety and threats on a bus. How the school and district communicate threats to parents and families? How students are trained in the event of specific threats?
The panel answered and addressed questions and informed the audience that surveys would be distributed at a later date based on the feedback of the forum. The entire forum can be seen on the North Butler Elementary Facebook page or the Beech Tree News Facebook page.