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School Safety Update

February 22, 2018

 

Dear NACS Parents,

 

Now that the raw emotion of the recent school shootings in Florida has subsided and the desire expressed by many to do something continues, I wanted to respond to two questions that I frequently have been asked over the past week.  Before I do so, I also want to inform you that Carroll High School will host an interagency training exercise focused on the deployment of Rescue Task Force Teams.  Rescue Task Force Teams consist of firefighters and police working in tandem to assist injured people in hostile environments.  Northwest Allen County Schools partnered with Huntertown Fire Department, Allen County Sherriff’s Department, Consolidated Communication Partnership which is the 911 dispatch service, to provide both learning and hands-on training for emergency responders.  I anticipate this event will garner media coverage, and I wanted to provide you with advance notice of it.  The training is an example of the proactive stance that we have taken to work with our community partners to increase our ability to provide a safe learning environment for the children we are blessed to serve.  To insure the greatest benefit for those participating, this training is the result of several months of planning.

As an educator, I have been asked many, many questions during my career, and I have provided answers to nearly all of them.  However, the question about why someone can do something so senseless like the actions witnessed in Florida a week ago is a question for which I have no answer.  Unfortunately, these acts seem to be increasing in frequency.  As we continue processing last week’s tragedy, two basic questions are repeatedly asked:  
(1) What has NACS done to prevent such a tragedy? and (2) As a parent, what can I do to help?

  • What has NACS done to prevent such a tragedy?

We take safety of our students seriously.  In meeting this responsibility:

  • All NACS administrators have been trained in best safety practices;
  • Throughout the school year, all staff and students practice procedures related to potential emergency situations;
  • We exceed the requirement from the State of Indiana of having at least one Certified School Safety Specialist by committing resources and support for more than 20 employees, including all building level administrators, to be trained as Certified School Safety Specialists, and more are being trained this year and more will be trained in future years;
  • We maintain an active School Safety Committee;
  • In addition to employing guidance counselors at each of our schools and a school social worker, we also partner with Parkview Health to provide a Student Assistance Program, which provides additional resources for those with mental health needs that extend beyond the training of our school personnel, and we partner with other school corporations and local providers trained specifically in crisis counseling whenever the need for services extends beyond the capacity of our guidance counselors and social worker;
  • We employ, in partnership with the Allen County Sheriff department, three school resource officers; and
  • We actively participate in the Allen County Safety Commission which includes representatives trained in school safety practices from various organizations including all Allen County School Corporations, the Allen County Sheriff Department, Fort Wayne Police Department, New Haven Police Department, Fort Wayne Fire Department, Huntertown Fire Department, Indiana Department of Homeland Security, other law enforcement officials, local first responders, local health officials, and others.

Our School Safety Committee regularly meets to plan training opportunities for our staff and students in addition to reviewing and updating our school safety plans and procedures.  The School Safety Committee works proactively to insure our staff are prepared to implement our school safety plan if an unforeseen situation arises.  Last week’s incident will inform national safety experts of new strategies that can help all schools keep children safe.  When these strategies are shared, we will immediately review and incorporate them into our school safety plans just as we have in the past.

No school, public or private, can guarantee with 100% certainty that nothing will ever happen to harm a student.  However, I can state with confidence that NACS takes school safety seriously, and we do everything with the resources afforded to us to provide a safe learning environment that incorporates current safety practices and procedures.

  • As a parent, what can I do to help?

As a father of five children, I can speak from firsthand experience.  Events like those in Florida can make us feel helpless while reminding us that no matter what we do, we cannot protect our children from every eventuality they may encounter.  However, we can:

  • Love our children unconditionally;
  • Teach our children and model for them the types of actions and behaviors in which we want them to engage;
  • Encourage our children to report wrongdoing they observe or hear about to trusted adults;
  • Encourage our children to communicate with and confide in trusted adults;
  • Support and reinforce the habits and behaviors that are taught, and corrected when necessary, by our family’s religious advisors and by administrators, teachers, coaches, music directors, club sponsors, bus drivers, and others who implement procedures to provide a safe learning environment;
  • Remain actively engaged in our children’s lives and the activities in which they participate at school and/or in the community;
  • Teach them how to respond in emergency situations and empower them to act in such situations; and
  • Support policies and laws that provide necessary resources for schools to provide healthy and safe learning environments.

Guidance counselors have been and will continue to be available in our schools to meet with any child who needs to meet with them.

Thank you for all you do to provide your child with opportunities to develop into a contributing member of our community.  We appreciate the support you provide our schools.  I offer my thoughts and prayers for those who lost friends and family in last week’s tragedy in Florida as well as for you as you confront questions from your child’s curious mind.  Like each of us, our children cannot possibly understand how such an act can occur.

I will end my letter with this advice from PBS children’s show host, Mr. Rogers,

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’  To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in the world.”

 

On behalf of Northwest Allen County Schools, thank you for the opportunity to serve as helpers for your child(ren).

 

Respectfully,

Chris Himsel

Superintendent

Northwest Allen County Schools