Taken from parent questions and concerns expressed at the May 21, 2019, Parent Forum on Safety and Security.
Q: What is being done to prevent students having weapons in school? What about a student who brings a weapon into the building? Will we be implementing metal detectors?
A: Sheriff Spurlock (Douglas County Sheriff's Office) stated that there is a place for metal detectors at district sporting events and the like. However, he does not promote the use of them in schools (he did add that there may be a use for mobile metal detectors in some high schools).
After consulting with law enforcement and school safety experts, including Susan Payne (Center for the Study of Prevention of Violence and founder of Safe2Tell), American Academy will not be implementing metal detectors at our campuses for several reasons. First, the queuing of students outside to go through the metal detectors puts students in an unsafe situation (making them sitting ducks). Second, research on metal detectors does not conclude that they are a deterrent for school shootings (in one instance, the staff member manning the metal detector was the first to be shot) – research does show, however, that the presence of metal detectors makes students feel less safe in school. And, finally, the implementation considerations could have a negative impact on school operations and culture.
We are also very active at American Academy when it comes to identifying students who could be at-risk of hurting themselves or others. We use a threat assessment protocol and if a student is found to be at-risk they will be put on a safety plan, which will often include checking in through the front office and a backpack search, in addition to providing supports for that student.
Q: What about the use of canines?
A: We are researching this possibility – it would have to be a cooperative effort between law enforcement (SROs) and the school. There are a million considerations, but we are starting these conversations with law enforcement.
Q: How does AA address the topics of danger being present in all schools?
A: We have age appropriate conversations with students with respect to our drills. We will share more information next school year about talking to your students at home to reinforce the learning and response.
Q: What have we learned from the Mountain Vista situation (2015)?
A: The Sheriff stated that he is not able to share info about Mountain Vista situation. We can share that students shared info via Safe2Tell and Text-a-Tip and that information led to the arrests and prevention. These systems have been essential in the prevention of situations and we will continue to educate our children on recognizing and reporting potentially dangerous situations.
Q: What is the protocol for K-8 at AA for a threat assessment?
A: Generally, we error on the side of caution. We will investigate anything reported by staff or students and, if warranted, start the a threat assessment protocol. A security plan is created if necessary.Q: What about a short term SRO available in DCSD? Are there grants available to pay for this?
A: The Sheriff shared that all current SROs are funded by Douglas County taxes (50% by law enforcement and 50% by schools). Grants are difficult to obtain.Q: Can we get a counselor up to 1 for every 250 students just like DCSD?
A: During the meeting I remembered that the high school ratio DCSD put in 5A was 1/300 – it is, in fact, 1 to 250. DCSD is going to a 1 to 250 ratio for middle and high schools and one per building for elementary schools. We feel that 2 full-time mental health professionals per campus meets this same intent. We also have a full-time school psychologist that oversees mental health and crisis response for American Academy.Q: Is there bullying reporting that is more local than Safe2Tell?
A: Yes, American Academy has a bullying incident report form
on our website that is local to our school. We promote this to our students, it lives in multiple places our website for parents and students to access, and it will continue to do so.Q: Will American Academy be isolating the middle school students from younger students?
A: No. The great value in a K-8 is the interaction of older students and younger students. We have mentoring opportunities both during and after school (book buddies, performing arts, etc.) – these interactions are what makes a K-8 so special. The older students are held to a high standard for behavior and being a role model for younger students. Q: How can parents communicate with children if something happens? Will smart watches that only allow for parent calls be allowed in school?
A: This is not as simple as it seems. In addition to the distraction of any smart watch in classes, smart watches that call parents may be dangerous in a true emergency. Trying to contact parent during an emergency situation can be dangerous. The safest thing for students to do during an emergency is to pay attention to and follow the directions of their teacher (for example, if students need to be silent, calling a parent through a Gizo could cause noise). Smart watches may be kept in backpacks and turned off, but cannot be worn in school.
Q: Does AA monitor student emails?
A: We do not read all student emails, but we do have systems in place that look for key words and bring emails to our attention if those words are found. Parents can monitor student emails as well – talk to your student or teacher about how to hook in to your students email account.
Q: What about safety for students in the gym and at recess?
A: American Academy staff and students practice this with drills. We also practice and train staff and students on situational awareness. Students at recess during a Lockout (Secure Perimeter – danger is outside the building) will be brought inside the building as quickly as possible. Students in the gym or cafeteria during a Lockdown (danger is inside the building) situation will be led outside and away from the building (depending on the situation).