Summary of Special PTA meeting on School Safety on December 18, 2012
Tuesday night, instead of the PTA’s usual monthly meeting, a special meeting was held to discuss the very timely issues of school safety and communication. The meeting was well attended by both parents and teachers. Principal Bonnie Hicks and Guidance Counselor Kurt Hebert addressed the group.
I. The meeting began with Bonnie providing information about
current Comprehensive Safety Plan. The following are some of the points she
touched upon: Small School
conducts once yearly lockdown drills and many fire drills. Small
2. The building is always locked with the exception of the front doors which are visible from the front office and the majority of the time staff is present to observe individuals when they enter the school.
3. The interior doors are also always locked from the inside. Teachers are well trained about when to close the doors should there be any threat.
4. The interior doors are lacking window shades and they are on order as part of the maintenance request.
5. The portables are also locked and kids move in groups to the main building escorted by an adult who has a key for access.
II. Kurt addressed the group about school communication and specifically the school’s message to the students in the aftermath of Friday’s tragedy. Kurt began with expressing his heartfelt gratitude to the parents for trusting the school enough to send their kids on Monday morning. Kurt explained that the staff met as a group to discuss their response to the student’s questions, emotions and concerns as well as to offer support to each other. Safety protocols were reviewed. The following were some of the steps taken to encourage a healthy school environment on Monday:
1. Kurt visited every classroom throughout the day to talk with teachers to get a pulse on the level of information students appeared to have and whether or not they were discussing the event.
2. In more than half of the classrooms, Kurt addressed the class about the event by doing the following:
a. Giving a very simple and general explanation – “an event happened in another area of the country. It was scary. You may hear people discussing it.”
b. Directing students to not discuss this among themselves or with friends at school.
c. Encouraging students to come to him or Amanda Swanson with questions, concerns and feelings about the event.
d. Encouraging students to discuss the event with their parents.
3. Kurt and Bonnie together encouraged teachers to keep to their regular routine but to feel free to ease up on lessons a bit or switch to more creative projects for the day if they felt the kids were overwhelmed or tired.
Kurt emphasized the school’s belief that parents are best equipped to make decisions about the amount and type of information (if any) their children should know about the event. He and Amanda Swanson have been, and will continue to, counsel those kids who need help processing the event during school hours. He and the staff will also continue in their attempts to minimize, as much as possible, any information being passed from student to student. He recognized that there were a couple of classrooms in which talk of the event was taking place outside the classroom, primarily during lunch and recess.
III. There was much discussion among the parents present about the best ways to talk or not talk with their kids about these issues. All present agreed on the following points:
1. Emphasize safety as it relates to their child at
2. Consider the age of the child when providing simple and reassuring answers.
3. Allow the child to express their feelings.
4. Parents should take care of themselves as well as their children.
Kurt and Bonnie did their best to address the specific concerns brought up at the meeting. The PTA had handouts on tips for talking with kids about violence and how to help prevent violence in schools. These handouts, and others, are available on the school website and through Kurt and Amanda.
At the close of the meeting, gratitude was expressed to Bonnie and Kurt for both their attendance at the meeting and their work so far to help the students and teachers during this difficult time. Bonnie informed us that
students are working on Pinwheels for Peace. She encouraged us to be on the lookout
for the results of this project on Small’s Pinwheels for Peace Day on Friday,
January 3rd, 2013. Small School