School Safety: Comprehensive Safety Review
Dear District 287 Families,
Last week one of our schools experienced a serious safety incident when a student brought a handgun to school. We understand the student did not threaten anyone. We know it’s important to keep families informed after safety incidents that impact our school district community.
While we have many strong safety practices in place, anytime there is a serious safety incident, it does give pause for us to review our own processes. Thus, I am initiating a comprehensive review of all safety protocols across all District 287 schools to ensure the safest possible environment for students.
Many families are aware of our district’s transition to more proactive, trauma-responsive safety measures in recent years. We understand the concerns that staff and families have raised about the decision to end the use of metal detectors this school year (note that only two sites had metal detectors). The comprehensive safety review will include a thorough and thoughtful analysis of all safety measures, including this one. We will communicate with the District 287 community once the review is complete.
We will continue to screen students as part of our entry into school by greeting students and thoroughly checking backpacks and jackets. Should there be cause to further screen a person, wands may also be used. There is no single safety measure that will catch everything, but we must serve students well throughout the day to provide a safe environment. It’s about developing what we already know is essential for students with high needs: building relationships and regularly checking in with students. Each student has multiple, trusted staff members who help keep them safe by:
- Assessing students’ physical and emotional well-being
- Taking “temperature” of the day’s climate, collectively and individually
- Empathy and understanding of how students show up and noticing when someone seems “off”
- Conversations that start the day on a positive note
- Body language that shows interest and care for students
- Acknowledging, greeting, and making eye contact with students when they first arrive
I want to acknowledge that students’ unmet mental health needs and school safety incidents are inextricably connected. As a school district that serves some of the highest-needs students in the state, we have pleaded with the legislators, the Governor, the Minnesota Department of Education, and others for more help to serve our students. We are getting a clearer picture of the consequences of this past year on students’ mental health and the increasing responsibility of schools to be the front line of the children’s mental health system.
I want to reassure families that we are taking additional safety precautions and that, as always, ensuring the safety of our schools, students, and staff is our highest priority.