School safety and security seems to be on everyone’s mind since the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Our students organized a seventeen-minute walkout to show their support for ending gun violence. Young people across the country are engaging in similar activities to let their local and State officials know that “enough is enough”. They are serious about ending gun violence and their voices are already making a difference. As an educator, I couldn’t be more proud of our students for speaking their minds.
Here at Morse our crisis team is busy updating our crisis response plans, especially with the adult roles and responsibilities during an evacuation. Our entire staff has been through the first round of ALICE training over the past few weeks. ALICE stands for; Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. It is a very different approach that many organizations are adopting, not just schools.
Currently, many schools, including Morse, only had a lockdown procedure in place if there was a threat in the area. A lockdown involves locked doors, lights out, hiding quietly, down low and out of sight. Lockdowns worked well for the situations they were designed for; to avoid stray bullets during drive-by shootings related to gang violence. Lockdowns may not be the best way to protect our students in other situations. Events over the past ten years or so have caused officials to rethink what is best.
The ALICE approach empowers staff and students to make informed decisions based on real time information. For example; if there was a threat that was reported to be near our school’s library or lobby area, we would communicate that and many classrooms would be able to safely evacuate the building and go to the evacuation site. For those classrooms that are unable to evacuate, they can do more than sit in the dark quietly. They can barricade the door and make it difficult for someone to enter the room or find objects to throw, if needed. The counter measures are a last resort but at least we can have people thinking about what can be done in the event of a crisis.
Morse also has a full-time school resource officer who is armed. He has extensive training in the area of school safety and security and he would be the first to respond to a threat. We have a great working relationship with local law enforcement and, in the event of a threat, the response time would be very quick.
It saddens me that my last Navigator article has to be about such a serious topic. I would rather be writing about all of the positive things that happen here every day. I do want folks to know that we are doing everything thing in our power to keep our students safe.
I also want folks to know that it has been a pleasure and an honor to serve as the principal for the past five years. This is a special place that is full of wonderful people, young and old. It is my time to “graduate” and that means that I will be a Shipbuilder for the rest of my life. That makes me very happy!