It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.
On Saturday the nation once again watched the details of yet another example of unexplainable violence unfold in our living rooms. This most recent mass shooting didn’t occur at a school, but did occur at a place that we should all be able to safely assemble: a house of worship. As a nation we are becoming all too accustomed to these incidents and the way they are explained and rationalized. They have become so common that there seems to be a formula for how they are covered and discussed. There is no doubt that these aggressive incidents have had an impact on our collective psyche and caused us to respond in ways we never thought we would.
As a community, we know that the best way to respond to hate is with kindness and support. However, as the leader of our school district, I am committed to safety of our students and staff and will do everything in my power to honor this commitment. This is why we have taken an assertive stance in protecting our schools. Last spring a committee made up of teachers, parents, administrators, and students drafted a plan to improve safety at our schools. Over the course of this year our district has been busy putting these new measures in place. While we strive to maintain an environment that is inviting and supportive, we also know we have a responsibility to “harden” our schools. We cannot permit our schools to be soft targets.
Some of our most recent safety upgrades include more secure entrances at our schools, improved camera surveillance, and more stringent school visitor procedures. Likewise, we have improved communications among the schools, improved our supervision procedures, and have developed improved safety plans. These new procedures are sure to lessen the likelihood of an incident at our school and minimize loss. Just as the events of September 11, 2001 changed the way we travel, so will these latest mass shootings change the way we protect our students.
For years I have resisted the hardening of our schools, believing, it could “never happen here.” The rash of mass shootings in our country combined with the ease with which weapons can be obtained have changed my perspective. Additionally, the scarcity of mental health services for those that so badly need it make our efforts even more important. I now feel that we need to take the kindest approach possible, while at the same time being ready for the worst. While I know that school is still the safest place for kids to be, we simply can’t let down our guard. We will support great teaching and learning and do so in the safest environment possible.