Response to Florida Tragedy
February 15, 2018
Dear Amesbury Public Schools Community:
As a community, our deepest sympathy goes out to the students, staff and families who suffered tragic loss as a result of the school shooting in Florida. This type of incident is becoming all too common in our world – I am hopeful that the events of yesterday will serve as a strong message to our legislatures to improve safety through better gun control and increased mental health support services.
Incidents such as this often elicit feelings of concern and fear in communities across the country. I am sure that members of the community are wondering questions, such as:
- How safe are our schools?
- What precautions are taken in our schools to protect our students and staff?
- How can we support our students, staff, and families as more information becomes available regarding this most recent incident in Florida?
The safety of our students, staff, and families in the Amesbury Public Schools is paramount. We are very fortunate to have a strong and supportive relationship with local public safety officials, particularly with the Amesbury Police Department for developing protocols and policies around safety issues related to threats of violence. As many of you know, we having been working closely with our local officials to identify new safety practices to further protect our community. Unfortunately, there have been a number of tragedies in recent years which have provided law enforcement with the opportunity to learn, reflect, and re-evaluate safety practices.
Most currently, our schools have been working to shift our approach to how we might respond should there be an active threat in the building. This research-based approach provides training to both staff and students about understanding the availability of options beyond the typical lockdown approach that has been used across the country for a number of years. Our new training, policies and practices is in alignment with the School Safety and Security report from 2014 developed by a Massachusetts Task Force under the direction of then Governor Deval Patrick. This report provided guidance to districts in the development of safety plans and protocols to “prevent, prepare and respond to, as well as recover from an emergency.” (2014) For more information about this report, please refer to: http://www.mass.gov/edu/docs/eoe/school-safety-security/school-safety-report.pdf
We will continue to work closely with our local public safety officials as we update our policies, revise our safety plans and procedures, train students and staff on safety protocols, and practice our safety plans. It is important to note that safety planning is not new - we have had safety protocols in place for a number of years; we are just updating our practices based on current research in collaboration with local law enforcement.
It is not only our responsibility to support our schools through safety planning and prevention, but to also ensure that our students’ social and emotional needs are met. This includes providing support for our students, staff and families in relation to events happening across the country. A resource that we as educators have found useful and can also be useful for families to engage their children or respond to their children about these devastating tragedies is available through the American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/topics/violence/school-shooting.aspx
We want our students, staff, and the community to feel safe when they enter the Amesbury Public Schools. We appreciate the ongoing support of our local public safety officials to help create safe learning environments. Please feel free to reach out to any member of the school or district leadership team if we can help support you in any way.
Gary S. Reese, Ed.D.