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By Dr. Mary Sieu
(Note: The author of this article is Dr. Mary Sieu, Superintendent of Schools for the ABC Unified School District. LCCN welcomes all points of view from our entire community).
Earlier this month during our spring break, I had the privilege of spending time with two women superintendents who were thrust into the national spotlight as a result of tragedies that occurred in their school districts. One was Dr. Janet Robinson, Superintendent of Newtown, Connecticut and the other was Jane Hammond, retired Superintendent of Columbine in Colorado. Both shared their extraordinary experiences of how they lead and managed their school districts through their crisis.
Since the Newtown tragedy last December, we in ABCUSD were forced to look at ourselves and find where we were deficient and improve. Since then, we
have beefed up our security by reviewing lockdown procedures, implemented regular drills, audited every campus and worked with law enforcement to help us refine our security measures. We required all schools to update their safe school plans and gather input with their Safe School Committee. During the Safety Walk Visitations at every school, we worked with the school to identify areas that need to be repaired or features that need to be installed in order to strengthen security.
We recognize from the experiences at Sandy Hook and Columbine that there are other important components that play a great role in school safety. In addition to the physical features of a school, the four other areas that are important in ensuring school safety are: 1) Instructional programs that educate our students about conflict resolution and nonviolence; 2) Effective safety and discipline policies implemented in the schools; 3) Addressing mental health issues in the schools; 4) Working with the community to ensure school security. These are four areas that we have built capacity in over the years but recognize that there is still more work to be done.
What the District will not do is arm teachers or staff as some districts in the country are considering. We feel that the emergency response should be left to trained professionals. We are very fortunate to have outstanding local law enforcement agencies partnering with us to ensure the safety of our schools throughout the District. We believe that strong relationships with our students, parents and the community will help us through this fundamentally altered new landscape we are all living in today.
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