This week we welcome guest columnist Matthew Sisk, Director of Safety and Emergency Preparedness for Upshur County Schools:
School safety is a phrase used so much but a phrase that can never be used too much. But do we understand that phrase, school safety? Schools should not just be safe—they must be safe. The schools house the most valuable resource of any community, our children. Do we understand that we have a role in school safety even if, as an individual, you do not have any children in the schools? If you read the national news, you most likely think school safety is just about doors, it is just about guns, it is just about bullies, security cameras, crisis plans, or law enforcement. However, what the national news does not speak about is that school safety is about continuous commitment.
What is the commitment of school safety? It is a commitment of ongoing work, difficult critical thinking, active listening, strong partnerships, as-needed prevention and practiced response. The ongoing work includes addressing the mental toll the children have due to the necessity of the drills we subject our students to on a frequent basis. The difficult critical thinking includes the continuous search for innovative solutions to the problems we face. The active listening includes hearing our children when they call for attention due to their needs and actively listening to the experts within our community. The strong partnerships are between families and the schools, businesses and the schools, first responders and the schools, and between everyone in every way mentioned above. The as-needed prevention includes the principals that go from door to door making sure they stay locked. The practiced response includes the ongoing work by parents who explain to their kids why it is so important to listen to all of the teacher’s instructions during a drill. Do not fool yourself in thinking the list of things above is all the work that is being done or all the work that must be done. These things listed above are just examples. There are thousands of more examples that could be provided of the ongoing commitment of so many people in Upshur County to the safety of the schools.
School safety is not a single person’s commitment or just the school’s commitment. School safety is a community’s commitment. We need businesses, families and friends to engage in this commitment with our law enforcement, with our schools and with our local governments. The commitment is more than showing up to PTO meetings to be part of your school’s crisis planning team, offering your assistance in drills, staying informed of local happenings, reporting concerning behavior, sharing ideas and offering actionable solutions to the problems we face. The various roles and responsibilities are less important than the commitment to the mindset of safety. The mindset is an outlook that the next tragedy can be prevented. The mindset is knowing your small part has an enormous role to play. The mindset is, “I care about others and I am willing to do something.” The commitment goes beyond the weeks following tragedy. The commitment lasts longer than the first few weeks of school. The commitment needs to be infused into who we are in our community. The commitment must be ongoing. It is part of who we are when we wake up in the morning so we know we can put our head down each and every night at home, with our loved ones, with a clear conscience knowing we did what we could do to help. It is ultimately a commitment to show up. Show up mentally, physically and with one another to effectively create the world our students deserve.
Upshur, that is our challenge. We cannot point fingers, throw our hands up, or hang our heads low. We cannot say to ourselves, “School safety is someone else’s responsibility.” We cannot say, “School safety is something outside of my control.” We cannot say, “Well, there is a plan for that so what else is there to do?” We cannot say “It won’t happen here.” Instead, we stand up for our children, for our families and for our country to be engaged. Engage in school safety and keep our future brighter than it is today. Visit www.wvsafeschools.com for more information.