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Have a peaceful and restful break, with gratitude for all that we enjoy and sympathetic thoughts for our fellow citizens in Florida who have lost so much.
Message from the Superintendent,
With news of yet another school shooting, our hearts and emotions lie first with the school district families and our educator colleagues in Parkland, Florida. We send our sympathies to a devastated community. At the same time it is not surprising that we all worry about the safety of our own children and wonder about the security of Hingham’s own schools. I would love to believe that there is no threat in our community, but the recent phenomenon of school shootings across our nation suggests that there are no guarantees. So, we redouble our efforts to review our protocols and enhance staff training and communications efforts to keep everyone safe. As educators, we appreciate being part of a community where fire, police, and other emergency personnel join us in our efforts to improve our efforts to be proactive in our planning for the unexpected and collaborative in implementing emergency responses.
Parents should be reassured that we do have an active Security and Safety Plan Committee. Over the last year and a half, we have provided “active shooter” training for school staff in all six schools; that is being followed up this year with a refresher activity for teachers. We are in the process of redoing our District-Wide Emergency Master Plan (often referred to as a multi-hazard plan). Past state funding has allowed us to add interior and exterior cameras at sensitive locations (as determined by principals) for greater surveillance in and about the school buildings. Of course, all schools are locked and require camera-monitored access during school hours. In Hingham, we are most fortunate to have three full time police officers, funded by the HPD, in our schools. They are not intended to be guards or security officers, but rather school personnel who can provide information, staff training, investigatory support, lessons for young children, courses for secondary students and traffic monitoring and many other more routine school tasks. As well, we believe that the visibility of the SROs in and about the school campus areas has a deterrent value. Lock down and evacuation drills are practiced with HPS students, and we are sensitive to the importance of conducting those exercises in a way that does not heighten the anxiety of our youngest children. Still we continue to look for more that we can accomplish.
Just this afternoon, I met with all school administrators to discuss the best way to get information out to concerned parents in instances like those we are facing today. We understand that parents want to be reassured that we are being vigilant and responsible; at the same time, we don’t want to broadcast to the public (such as through social media) the details of all the security measures that we have in place. Your principals will share some resources that may be helpful in discussing with your children their concerns and worries about the recent shooting in Florida. In the case of reassuring young children, we believe that parents can be the most effective conveyors of frightening news. Please reach out to the principals if you have specific concerns or need for details about security precautions in your child’s school.
As our country mourns the recent tragedy, my emotions are many and they include feelings of such frustration (and even anger). We have so many collaborative spirits and bright minds and caring souls in our midst. So, it is hard for me to believe that we can’t find a way to come together on protecting Second Amendment rights while at the same time keeping inappropriate weapons out of the hands of dangerous, unstable, or irresponsible individuals. As well, I believe we just need to do more about providing resources for addressing mental health issues, including finding ways to balance the rights of the mentally ill with the rights of the general public to be safe and secure. Children have rights too! As adults, we all have a responsibility to protect them and we need to band together to hold our lawmakers more accountable for advocating for the rights of children and young adults. It’s time. We have delayed doing what’s right for too long.
Let’s use this upcoming break to be grateful for the safe community that we have enjoyed but also to be thoughtful about how we can play a role in providing that same kind of secure school environment for all children and youth.
Until the next time,
Please refer to guidance from the American Psychological Association for useful and practical help: http://www.apa.org/topics/violence/school-shooting.aspx.