We’ve had a great start to this school year with both students and staff enjoying the excitement of learning. Along with the excitement, a new school year also provides the opportunity to reflect on priorities and ensure we are putting first things first.
Something has been on my mind, and the minds of many since the end of last school year. Student safety. While many will tell you that education is the first goal of a school district, I disagree. Keeping students safe should always be our first priority.
You’ve probably noticed that entrances to KCS buildings remain locked as you wait to be buzzed in. While that is an important step, there is much more going on behind the scenes that I want to share with you.
In addition to our four school counselors, in partnership with Health Partners of Western Ohio, we now have three full-time Behavioral Health Counselors and one social worker dedicated to serving our students. Additionally, staff members across the district have received Mental Health First Aid Training and Crisis Prevention & Intervention Training to support students when they need it most.
While planning and mental health resources are great, sometimes, they just aren’t enough to keep students safe should an emergency arise. We’ve done some work there, too.
Active threat training takes place each summer for new staff and multiple drills are conducted with students and staff throughout each school year. Additional classroom and pod lockdown devices have been added, while electronic security and communications systems have been upgraded. The Safe Ohio School Tip Line has been implemented for students and staff to report suspicious activity on campus. Another precautionary safety measure occurred this summer as Threat Assessment Teams were created and trained by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The purpose of the Threat Assessment Team is to look into any potential threats to student safety and act accordingly.
Lastly, the Kenton City Schools Board of Education is considering the implementation of a rapid response team. This team is an added security layer in the event of an active shooter situation. House Bill 99, signed into law by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, in partnership with Ohio School Safety Center, developed the Safety & Crisis Division to train and authorize officers and school staff members to go armed on school property. Although School Resource Officers are the best option to meet these threats, they cannot be everywhere at once at a time when seconds are critical. Most school shootings are over within five minutes. We know that time is of the essence to minimize casualties. That’s why both Hardin County Sheriff Keith Everhart and Kenton Police Chief Dennis Musser have encouraged the district to pursue this initiative.
Should the board choose to pursue a rapid response team, the team would be a small group of well-vetted, qualified, and strategically placed staff members trained to protect students in the event of an active shooter.
I certainly wish this conversation was not necessary, but the number and increasing rate of these incidents demands prevention strategies, planning, and training. If you’d like additional information and/or would like to provide feedback on these safety related issues, please use this online form: go.kcs.me/rrt
Lessons from both our Leader in Me and R Factor curriculum teach us to be proactive with a plan, while being willing to adjust and adapt as needed. We cannot control Events in this life, but we can certainly control our Response to produce a better Outcome (E+R=O). In the end, we want to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep our students and staff as safe as possible.