Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It Takes a Village to Protect a Child

     Yes, it is a spin off one the most quoted phrases in the past decade, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child,” but it’s very appropriate.  I want to talk about what it takes to protect children in today’s school system.  It takes everyone.  From school staff to county agencies, from parents to the students themselves.  To protect our children it takes everyone working together for a common cause.

     The story starts the last day before our Christmas break.  The day started out great.  The high school pep club was sponsoring an “Ugly Sweater Day.”  We all had a great time chuckle at each other's sweaters.  I was getting to see the majority of the staff and kids because I was spreading some Christmas cheer, handing out stipend checks to our staff.
     As I left a teacher's office and walked across the gym, I heard my name yelled.   I looked back to see one of my high school teachers walking with one of our high school students.  As they approach me, I could tell by the look on their faces they were concerned.  The high school student was carrying her phone in her hand with a look of I have some important information on her face.  The teacher explained to me that the student had received a text from a student in another district.  The other district had received a threat and security was at a high alert.  Even though the threat wasn’t directed at our school, the threatened school was close enough to our district to warrant checking it out.
     I thanked the student and teacher for their diligence in making me aware of the situation and I headed back to my office to make a phone call to our county sheriff.  As I shut the doors to my office, my mind wandered back to the terrible tragedy that Newtown, Connecticut, had been through just one week earlier.  What a heart wrenching experience for a community to loose so many young people and dedicated educators.  As I dialed the phone, I shuddered at the idea of it happening at my school.
     The country sheriff's secretary answered the phone.  He wasn’t in his office.  She asked if this was urgent.  I said, “Yes!”  She assured me that he would call back immediately.  As I hung up the phone and spun my chair around to my desk, I worried about how I would handle the circumstances that might lay ahead of me.  Although I waited less than a couple minutes for the sheriff to call back, it seemed to take an eternity.  I explained the situation to him and he said he would contact the affected county authorities and call me back.  I told him as a precaution that I was going to lock our front door.  He thought it was a good idea.  I thanked him and hung up the phone.
     I moved quickly to the front lobby and turned the key to allow the panic bar on the door to be in lock position.  The next step was to inform the front office staff what we were doing.  My secretary volunteered to man the front door and screen our visitors.  As I came back to the office, the high school secretary wanted to know what the front office would need to tell people.  Right off the top of my head I couldn’t think of anything.  My mind was busy processing what my next step would be once I heard back from our county sheriff.  After a few seconds I told her to give me some time and I would send information out to our staff notifying them of all the details.  Until then she could simply refer people to my office.  My next step was to double check all exterior doors to make sure there wasn’t an oversight on any of the doors.  In the middle of the process, the sheriff called my cell phone.  As I answered the phone I hoped to myself that he had positive news.....

Check out my next post to discover what the sheriff says and how we proceed as a school district.

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