School Safety and Security

August 24, 2019 posted by


Well good afternoon and thanks for
coming out to today’s informational program on safety in Falls Church City
Schools. I’m Bill Juanlund my wife Martha Netherton and I are
co-chairs of the local affairs committee of the Falls Church League of Women
Voters. Welcome fellow League members for those of you who aren’t members but
would like to join or just want to know more there’s some information about programs and membership over there by the door. The league is co-sponsoring this program along with
the Falls Church City Public Schools and the city of Falls Church whose
participation today is an indication of the importance that our officials place
on this topic. I think we all recognize that no community or school is immune
from a tragedy and the complexity of the problem is suggested by the people
you’re about to hear from today and not just school administrators but police
fire and rescue services and of course students and because in a very short
time renovation will start on our city’s high school we’ve also invited
representative firm responsible for developing the project to share with you
his firm’s plans for building a safe and welcoming educational environment. The
League of Women Voters of Falls Church is committed to helping keep the public
informed on key local issues and we can think of really no issue more important
than the safety of our daughters and sons and we’re also committed to an
open exchange of ideas the information has to flow both ways though our
panelists today need to hear your concerns as well so the final portion of
our program is reserved for audience questions and comments from parents and
non parents alike so please plan on raising the issues that you believe need
fuller explanation or clarification Today’s discussion will revolve largely
around the new high school because that’s where much of the city’s
attention and resources are focused but we know that many of you are parents of
kids from your lower schools who aren’t at George Mason yet if you have
questions pertaining to conditions at Thackery or Mount Daniel or TJ or here at
Henderson or at St. James please don’t hold back.
Our discussants want to hear from you as well and I can’t end without
acknowledging the enormous contribution of City Council member and vice mayor
Marybeth Connelly who’s also the community outreach director of Falls
Church City Public Schools. The league and Martha and I in particular owe her a great
debt of gratitude for all she did to make this afternoon’s program come
together. Thanks mayor (applause). Now let’s start the conversation. It’s my pleasure to
present Dr. Peter Noonan the superintendent of Falls Church public
schools and our police chief Mary Gavin who will give an overview of today’s school
safety situation Thank you Bill and Martha and League members for being
here and community members for being here as well. It’s a true pleasure to be
able to have this opportunity to speak a little bit about school safety something
that is of course paramount to our work and what we do in our schools so to
give you a brief overview of sort of how we’re hoping that today will flow and I
think that Bill framed it very nicely is that the first part of this presentation
is going to be about 30 minute maybe less than that actually overview from
myself and Chief Gavin to talk about kind of where we currently are and then
the second movement if you will of the presentation will be a panel and we’ve
got some really great panelists that are here and I’ll ask some questions of them
and sort of help facilitate the panel along and then the last portion is
reserved for any questions and answers from those of you that are in the
audience so before we get started I do want to thank our board members that are
here this afternoon. We have Lawrence Webb who is our school board chair thank
you for coming out. Greg Anderson is here and Shannon Linton is here and I also
want to extend my thanks to Marybeth Connolly for her help on the school
side and also on the city side for pulling us all together so let me
go ahead and get started. I’m gonna start the presentation
and then I’m gonna ask Chief Gavin to come up and talk a little bit more about
some of the things that they’re doing with respect to the presentation I’m
gonna share. I have way more slides than I anticipated I was going to have and so
I will work through them just as quickly as I can because I don’t want to create
any opportunity any barrier to us having a conversation but the first
thing you’ll notice is that this says June 18 2018 and the reason that I
have that date up there is because we last spring in the school’s did three
presentations at work sessions sort of back to back. We started in April. We had
another work session in May and we had a third work session in June and at each
of those three public work sessions and they’re online so if you want to go back
and look at them and get more detail you’ve certainly welcome to do that but
in each of those work sessions we took school safety and we tried to sort of
peel it apart if you will and so at the first work session in April we did an
overview of kind of where are we with respect to our current practices here in
the city of Falls Church schools. The second was what are some of the national
best practices that are out there with respect to schools and then the third
one was how do we now compare what our current practices are what are the best
practices that are out there and how do we close the gap and what are some
things that we need to work on specifically that will help us do a
better job in the city of Falls Church ensuring that our students are safe
so the first part of this presentation is really going to be an
overview of all of the schools and sort of our school safety in general and then
the second part will get a little bit more into the high school design and
then certainly with QnA so let me start just by sharing a couple of slides right
at the beginning this comes from the first work session that we had that sort
of talks about what are the current practices that we have in place that are
available to help support safety in our schools and starting with the exterior
just so everyone’s aware we do have security cameras throughout all of our
campuses that we are able to monitor both centrally
and also in the case of a crisis emergency event or crisis event those
cameras can also be taken over if you will by the police department so we can
turn them over since they are web-based so that anybody in the police
department who needs to see them can of course we have alarm systems. We have
limited door entries at many of our schools and I will share with you one of
the really exciting possibilities about the new high school is that we are
significantly limiting access to the building right now I think there are 94
doors and we will have one entry point that is common that will funnel all of
our kids through will have lots of egress points but you won’t be able to
come in those doors but limited access that is monitored by security staff in
all five of our schools and I include Thackeray as well. We do hire a company
called Securitas in each of those schools to come in and support the
access control we have access control procs readers which are the badges and
the badges you swipe in and you swipe out. You can’t get in if you just walk up
to the door. You have to be buzzed in by the security person unless you have a
proxy reader as well. We have good exterior lighting to maintain the
outsides as well. On the inside we have our entrances that again are monitored
we have security staff that monitor the inside of the buildings and also we have
some at the high school and the middle school in particular
and at TJ we have the exterior of the building monitored as well by Securitas
staff. We have security cameras again visitor screening which is a new system
that we put in a year and a half two years ago where anyone who comes in has
to put their driver’s license through the system and then they get a badge and
they won’t a security badge and they won’t get a security badge if they don’t
pass the screening as part of the process. All of our classroom doors lock.
Some from the outside. All of them lock from the inside but some of the
doors swing open towards the hallway which is a barrier
for us for safety at the high school particularly and that’s another example
of something we’re excited about being able to change in the new building but
most of our many of our doors also come inward and then we have the capacity to
cover all of our door windows if there is a need to do that so if we have to
shelter in place. That’s the physical side of security. With respect to
communications some of the ways that we communicate are you know we have a
school resource officer that’s assigned to George Mason and Mary Ellen Henderson
so some of you might know Clark Canyon Clark is our school resource officer who
we all know we work with on a day and a day out basis works very closely with
Mr. Hills and also with Valerie Hardy here at the middle school and if there
is an issue that comes up at the elementarys he is also is open to going
there. We have ongoing training with our first responders. We’ll share more about
that as we move forward. We often will hold after-action meetings if there is a
circumstance that’s come up regular meetings with our Public Safety Command
and school administrators and that is a meeting that we have semi-annually
actually we do it more than once a year
internally we have Public Address systems throughout the building ongoing
emergency drills are part of our process and there are required by the state as
well so we have to document those and then submit them and those are for any
crisis that you can not any crisis but many of the crises that you can
imagine. We do tornado drills. We do earthquake drills. We do safety drills
shelter in place lock downs and the like and then we have a division wide radio
network as well so you’ll see many of our folks and Sevi Padilla our Director of
Facilities is here today and I’m surprised he doesn’t have his radio.
Usually he does but we can communicate across the division with these radios as
well so we are always working on that so then we got to the second and
again I’m going to kind of work through these quickly the second work session
which was in May and we talked about those best practices that are out there
and when we told the Virginia Department of Education
best practices on safety and school security there were five areas that they
really designated and identified that we really need
pay very close attention to prevention protection mitigation response and
recovery so as we went through each of those what we did was we identified
for example under prevention which are actions taken to prevent emergency
incidences how are we doing and so we put where you see these green pluses are
areas that we think we do a really nice job with here in the city of Falls
Church and the yellow are some areas that we need to improve upon which
became then our work plans for the school division and I’ll share those
sort of at the end of the presentation which was the third
presentation that we did for the school board so with respect to intervention we
feel like we have a really great threat assessment team. We have school social
workers school psychologists school counselors. If there was a threat that
comes to us we’re able to move through that very quickly through our threat
assessment process. We have close communication with our police and
emergency responders and I think that’s evidenced by not only our school
resource officer but the fact that Mary Gavin and I Chief Gavin and I speak on a
regular basis as well as Tom Polara who will be on our panel this afternoon. We
are working to get better with if you see something say something because we
know that our kids are our best assets in our schools when it comes to
identifying if there’s the potential for a critical incident and we
actually have had a number of occasions where students have come to us and
identify someone that was in crisis that needed an extra touch if you will and so
that’s where our threat assessment came in so we would call that student in
and that it’s clear enough to all of our students to
if you hear something or if you see something to say something and how
do you do that and then empowering school sack staff you know how do we
embrace the diversity of our school programming positive daily interactions
with at-risk students eliminating cultural stigmas and tolerances and
prejudices. We do a nice job with this but we can always we can always do
better and how are we talking with students to dissuade them from
dangerous path and how do we connect with those students and build
relationships to be able to do that. Also under prevention we really felt like we
needed to establish a focus group to really think about how do we
approach bullying. We don’t have any issues significant issues in our
city right now with gang violence but we need to pay attention to it and then
any kind of radicalization or extremism we need to get our head and heart
around but more than anything really looking at this bullying piece and so
we’ve started some focus group areas around that because that was a yellow
for us. We didn’t have a standing meeting if you will to really look at that. We do
a nice job with after-school activities and I think we do a really nice job of
utilizing the planning resources for them from the Virginia Center for school
and Campus Safety. Those are some nice resources that are out there that talk
about training stakeholders developing information reviewing and facilitating
annual audits in the building and then developing partnerships between state
and local jurisdictions. The next is protection and this is really about
hardening infrastructure so it’s a yellow for us. Are there some things that
we can do better? Absolutely and so some of the things that we knew
immediately was at George Mason High School there were some doors that you
could walk along that were sensibly locked but if you pulled hard enough you
could actually open them so we went back and reviewed all of those doors and I
think we ended up spending several thousand dollars to make sure that all
of the locking hardware worked. There are some other infrastructure hardening
things that we could look at as well that we are looking at purchasing in the
future which would be some interior locking devices and so we’re looking at
some of those things maintaining our secure these systems. Our fire burglary alarm
and an emergency panic buttons and we’re actually pretty good at that but I think
where we need to pay attention is our windows and door security particularly
at the high school and making sure that we update and upgrade our camera and
access controls as necessary so technology is changing all the time
right and so the fact that we need to have web-based camera systems is really
important so that we can turn those over Our security staff were a plus again we
do a manual emergency trainings. We’ve got a great security staff at our
locations and great coordination with our Police Department. Under mitigation
some of the things that we looked at is again the threat assessment was a
positive for us our police and school-based teams this is something
that we want to continue to work on and how do we get better at police
intervention not necessarily based on the threat assessment and the like
and again providing training to us and we’re going to talk a little bit more
about that as we move ahead too. Under response the areas that were of yellow
communication with parents and students We needed to go back and look at how
do we communicate crisis information quickly. Is it best to use text phone
email etc and so we have looked at school messenger and some other items
and I’ll talk more about those in a second
and then multiple methods of response and this is where we get into thinking
about not just lockdown but how do we engage in alert lockdown inform counter
and evacuate as necessary and that is the Alice training that we’re currently
going through right now and Tom Polara who is our emergency
management person in the city has done a really tremendous job with his staff
helping us get trained around that and then under recovery you know continuity
of operations we do have what’s called a coop plan in action and so we
we have a member on the team to make sure that we continue to in a crisis be
able to continue our operations appropriately. We do an annual review
with our insurance carriers but crisis team activation and response is
something that we wanted go back and take a look at. How do we
garner the resources of school social workers school psychologists school
counselors and the like if there is indeed a crisis that we need to deal
with and how do we pull a team together and so now we’re working on developing
sort of action teams or crisis teams that are helping us with that and then
in action physical security we have secured vestibules in a couple of our
buildings but in the new building that we’ll share today we’ll have an
absolutely secure vestibule so it will be hard to get in without being buzzed
in and then an area focus for us are these emergency events centralized
automatic lock downs emergency egress points and the like. Some of the
references in the reference list and you all will have access to this
presentation this is up on our website now because we shared this in April May
and June of last year but I’ll put it up again so that you can also look at
it but there are a number of resources that we have utilized to include the
Virginia Department of Ed the FBI and their office of partner engagement and
then the US Department of Education as well to name a few and then the third
session that we had specifically was recommendations for closing the gap so
those areas that were yellow we pulled those now out and said okay what are we
going to do about them and how are we going to work through those
appropriately to really support and strengthen our safety school safety
program here in the city of Falls Church and so we started with hardening of
infrastructure and so we are evaluating our options right now in terms of adding
additional hardening potential so we’re looking at vestibule security in each of
the schools so for example if you were to go to George Mason High School today
there is a vestibule or there isn’t a vestibule that you have to go through to
get in. There’s a door you have to be buzzed in or you can swipe in but once
you’re in the building you’re in the building. That front desk is staffed by a
security person in the entire day but a better solution and you’ll see in our new design is to have sort of an enclosed vestibule
much like if you’ve been to Jessie Thackery or even here at the middle
school you walk in a set of doors and you can’t get in that next set of doors
unless you’re buzzed into that next set of doors so if you’re someone who’s
coming in to do harm you want to have multiple steps for that person to get
through so looking at each of those reviewing we did have the Transportation
Security Administration come out and do a safety audit for us that actually
has been received and we’re taking action around that and specifically it
was our school bus safety because you know we have multiple layers of safety
that we have to look at. It’s not just during the school day. It’s after school
it’s bus safety and the like and then annually assessing our security measures
and looking at points of entry our camera systems security staffing and the
like and that’s under hardening on during empowering teachers to respond in
an emergency thinking about our current practice which is shelter in place and
Mr. Polaris can talk a little bit about that maybe not being the best approach
and what happens if you do shelter in place and there is an active incident so
rather than sheltering in place if you can get out and evacuate it’s a better
solution so it’s about good communication and understanding what
your options are so looking at ALICE training for all of our staff and again
working in combination and collaboration with our Police Department as well. The
next is see something say something and right now it varies by school and it’s
quite informal so we are designing and implementing a new see
something say something campaign. We are working on a student tip line or
branding that tip line to include posters and advertisements exploring
vendors currently and we are right now we work with CrisisLink but there are
some components of CrisisLink that can also be more useful to us that would
include also a suicide prevention text line which is also another crisis that
we deal with in our our schools as well as the emotional health and wellness of
our students. Immediate communications right now we use email Twitter school
messenger but we want to enhance our mass notification systems and so school
messenger is a really great system that we have that actually can drill down
better than other systems so we have in the past used what is it called not
Survey Monkey but it’s the other we’ve been using another system we really want
it MailChimp yeah Survey Monkey MailChimp I knew it
had something to do with it primate in there
but we can do better than MailChimp and so school messenger allows us to
really get information out more quickly and we can expedite that for students
staff parents in the community and we’re working to refine those those practices
as well. Close partnerships with our public safety folks and here again
today you’ll see them but you know preventative and systematic training
increasing our dialogue making sure that we’re continually talking looking at
diversity bullying and digital citizenship and here we’re talking about
a comprehensive multi-tiered systems of support which is MTSS framework so that
we’re looking at the social and emotional aspects of students as well
because if we have great relationships with kids and we’re better able to
understand where those students are socially and emotionally oftentimes we
get into a preventative mode with students which is very very helpful so
looking at that comprehensive social-emotional piece for
implementation is important. Establishing focus groups for safety security and
bullying as I mentioned before another best practices to evaluate knowable
information that might indicate that there’s a risk so again looking at our
social workers looking at prevention and intervention across grade levels and
again building those relationships with students is really important
establishing action steps to restore a learning environment post an event right
now we have a safety school system Safety Committee but it’s very informal
so really looking at how do we enhance that on a more routine basis and
proactively plan with Public Safety and others and so in
summary again there are a couple of resources here the Secret Service the US
Department of Education was informative to us. The Virginia Department of
Criminal Justice also was informative but these are the areas that we really
feel like helped us align those areas that we need to be better in and so we
are spending a lot of time focusing on that. Now I’ve had an opportunity to
work and this is where I feel very good about having an opportunity to have
worked in a number of school districts across the country across the world and
I will tell you when I came to Falls Church and saw that we have school
safety and security that we have that are on staff at each one of our schools
that we have interior and exterior cameras that we only have twenty six
hundred students division wide across five schools so that allows us to
understand who our kids are really build relationships and really strong staffing
around our school social workers our school psychologists our school
counselors. We are positioned very well in the city to one know our students and
really think about how do we deal with kids on an ongoing basis to interrupt
action if there is a concern that a student has before it becomes an issue
and then also the hardening factors of the school in particular that are going
to be part of the new design at the high school will be equally exciting so
let me let me skip to that real quick and then I’ll go back to those pictures
in just a second. We did show a slide at the Sunday series a couple of weeks ago
that was called school safety and security and this is the current floor
plan or design for the front of the for the first floor of the new high
school so these doors here are coming off of this plaza right so students
would walk in in this blue area is that secure vestibule that I was
mentioning before so there’ll be a safety and security officer stationed in
this secure vestibule and students and parents will not be able to get through
these doors unless except and unless those doors are opened by school safety
and school staff so there is another set of doors here so when school
starts students will be able to walk through those doors but after on the
start of school anyone who comes into the secure vestibule will be directed
through this door here which goes into the main office. In the main office
they’ll have to check in and then there’s this door here where
they will come out so you kind of come in you take a left you take a right and
then you’re able to access the rest of the school so that’s one thing about the
school safety that’s really important The second is that the School
Safety Officer is going to be through there
they’ll be routed through we’ll have a central school resource officer office
somewhere in this area we think right now which would probably have or
potentially have eyes on the hallway as well which I think will be great but
that school resource officer again as part of the administrative team that
sits here. The other thing that I want to make sure that everybody understands is
that this is a five story above grade building and this is the first floor and
on this first floor we have we certainly have the cafeteria. We have the
administrative offices and we have the auditorium. This auditorium is empty
about 90% of the time so there isn’t a lot that’s happening in this area most
of the days. There is this cafeteria that’s used all the time but instruction
and academic core areas don’t begin until you get to the third floor so this
is the first floor so you actually have to go up two more floors before you get
to the majority of what’s happening in the school and or you can go down and
down the stairs is where art the art of Performing Arts are and physical
education. This central staircase here it’s called this we’re calling it the
spine in the school so if you think about it being a five-story building
it’s got a single spine that goes up the school and this can be secured
remotely and or right when you get there so if there is a critical incident let’s
say on this main level these doors can be locked down and that person or that
incident is then limited only to this floor. They can’t go down they can’t go
up and that happens at all of the floors on this central staircase and I think
that that’s important to note. The other is that in the circumstance where
we’re in a lockdown and a shelter in place for some sort of critical incident
all of the classrooms will have blinds so that they can be blocked off so that
you can’t see in you can’t see out There’s been a lot of conversation
around the amount of glass that’s going in this building and whether or not it
can be secured and I brought these pictures because I think that there may
be a misunderstanding about how much glass is going in the building so I
asked the architects to send us a couple of renderings of what it might look like
in the classrooms and so I just wanted to share with you that this is the
amount of glass that we’re talking about it’s not these are not full glass walls.
At a school that we did visit there were some full glass walls but we’re not
talking about full glass walls here we’re talking about a couple of windows
these will have shades that can close but the exterior windows will be full
full so you’ll be able to see out and so it’ll be good light There are some
classrooms that are being designed with taller windows but again the important
part of this is that there will be blinds you can’t see in can’t see out
and there is an area if you needed to lock down and
behind a wall you could and that was that was another piece that was really
important to us but I think some people have been picturing in their minds full
glass full-length walls of glass so I think I went over time and I didn’t
really apologize so I’m going to turn over to to our chief here and
we’ll stay as long as you want to us to stay but I do want to turn it over Thank you for having me. Thank you for
coordinating this Mary Beth and the League of Women Voters. I just wanted
to give an overview of some of the principles so what does it mean to have
a school resource officer and what does it mean to have police in the schools
because that’s been going on for many many years. Prior to my assignment here
in Falls Church I was a school resource officer in Arlington County for many
years and after I left that position they put me back into that position as
the supervisor over 18 school resource officers so I have a wealth of knowledge
in terms of how the police work through schools and how it works and sometimes
how sometimes how it doesn’t but I want to steal a line from our school
resource officer who isn’t here today and I actually made him stay home
because it’s got a special anniversary with his family but he wanted to be here
but he said to me as we made the approach to this he said school safety
starts at home and that’s very very true. I mean
particularly these days with the kids and a number of pressures that they’re under
it really is incumbent upon parents to actually get the temperature of how
their kid is leaving the house and what’s going on with that kid or if they
hear stories that they make the counselors aware and we do have a very
robust relationship and ability to communicate and as parents it’s
incumbent upon us when our kids are in a difficult place is to know why and ask
them and have those conversations so I’m very fortunate to have Clark I think
Clark has embedded in these schools and really enjoys this job and most
importantly enjoys kids and that’s probably one of the key things with
school resource officers to ensure that they enjoy kids and I know Clark is part
of that. One of the main principles about schools and police are police are here
to help facilitate a safe environment and in doing so they are part of the
school administration but they’re also a part of ensuring that any crimes that
occur in the school are taken care of and they’re like a sheriff within its
own community and I will daresay an SRO is probably one of the only police
officers that is comfortable in a school because when you take a patrol officer
in and put them into high school they feel a little strange mainly because the
kids think it’s strange and they always ask the SRO who called the cops
like the SRO isn’t one but I can tell you the SROs are embedded in the schools
they understand that it’s sacred ground and anything that occurs in that schools
they work with the administration they work with the detectives sometimes and
they’re worth more the Commonwealth Attorney’s to seek the best solution for
maybe a family or kid in crisis. The other thing that happens I want you to
understand is when there is a crime in the community we don’t bring it into the
schools and that’s a big no-no unless a kid comes with some types of threat to
the school that’s based on a crime outside the community and we would alert
the administration. For instance there were times when I was a school resource
officer back in the day when we had gang issues and we knew that there was a
threat outside the school on the street during you know a weekend event and we
thought that they might have an incident in the school later
and so we would stand up some type of protective measures. We would do the same
in this school. If we felt like somebody brought something into the school from a
crime into the school we take action but typically if there is something that
happens outside the schools with a juvenile let’s say it’s a party and
a couple we’re fighting or something like that we would not bring that back
into the school so that’s really important to know because sometimes the
schools get burdened with a lot of information from the community and a lot
of expectations from the community that has nothing to do with the schools and
we want to make sure that’s pretty pure because it can get kind of confusing.
School safety really is based on people training an environment and environment
I’m talking about technology. People it really is about the
parents and the kids starting at home understanding where we are the people
also that are so important to this the first responders in the school are the
teachers and the workers in the school They are the first responders. Training
training is very important and we have evolved through the time since my- I’ve
been here in the city for about eleven years and our training has evolved in
large part because of Tom Polara and he has studied and researched all of the
methods of operation of threats to schools but he’s also studied the best
practices for first responders and we’re very fortunate in the city because I
would dare tell you in most jurisdictions you don’t have a hybrid
approach you have police doing one thing and sometimes fire doing another but
here in the city we have a hybrid command staff where I have fire
commander on my which is immeasurable it’s actually very awesome and
you’ll see and hear from Tom here very soon. The other thing I wanted to mention that
Peter might have missed but I think are very proud I’ve been Tom to taking the
lead with Joe Carter and this is that we also train not only the teachers with
the ALICE program but we teach and train the school bus drivers
who are key to getting our kids to and from school but they are key in any
community incident. Anytime I have an issue I feel I can and I know I and I
have pick up the phone and called Nancy Hendrickson and say I need and she is on
it and I can tell you these people that drive your buses that’s probably one of
the hardest licenses I’ve ever tried to do is get it a CDL for school buses they
are ready and willing to work particularly an emergency drop of a dime
because most of them are working not only in your school buses but in the
cafeteria and in the schools. They’ve got multiple hats and there and they’re most
willing to work but I’ll let Tom speak to that school bus training. The other
thing is I think what we’ve learned through the years
particularly in Falls Church is we have evolved out of some really bad
incidents. On December 14 2012 I was on the phone with Tony and that was excuse
me Sandy Hook one of the worst days and me and Wyatt was standing side by side
looking at what was going on there but we’ve got on the phone with the schools
very immediately and what you need to realize with that what came out of that
in terms of action is then you got Securitas. That’s when you’ve got cameras
in the schools where our dispatchers can see immediately what’s going on. Why
does that matter? That matters because a dispatcher sitting in a booth talking to
a police officer can explain exactly what’s going on in the hallways and we
only do that when we have to. We drill on it but when there’s a need for immediate
response and getting right to the threat there’s nothing better than having eyes
on what’s going on and that came out of Sandy Hook.
Securitas came out of Sandy Hook and the other thing that we do
along the lines of that is we test. We test our dispatchers to ensure that they
can get into the system and look at things in an emergency. We also test the
securitas system. We have a mom or pretend mom try to get into the schools
at different times to see if the systems working and the schools have done a very
good job. The last thing I just want to talk about the the day to day incidents
in the schools. You know we do we are so very fortunate that we do have a good
relationship and we talk often if we do have a problem or often you know
sometimes grinding it out trying to learn what’s in the best practices not
only for the police but before the schools and sometimes it’s not pretty.
Sometimes we have hard discussions and in large part because they’re children
and most of the people that work under me or with me are parents first and they
understand that and then when we have it’s that borne out of criminal
investigations and we have to take criminal investigations into
the school they’re very difficult too. I mean last year between November and
February there’s 11 months we had four very
serious school threats and of those school threats those
investigations we drop everything. We drop all other investigations all the
investigators and patrol for the most part are looking at that threat and how
can we mitigate it how can we stop anything from happening and
they’re sensitive because you’ve got kids so you’ve got families and you have
victims and victim families and it’s very very hard to communicate sometimes
all of it immediately because there are some sensitivities and confidentiality
in and around that but we try and do better each time when that comes along
and unfortunately with each one we get a little better. The last thing I wanted to
say is that you know a lot of the things that we do in the schools we can’t
necessarily tell you in terms of security. A lot of it’s confidential
it would be foolish for me to sit here and explain everything that we did but I
can tell you we do have the best interest of children and this learning
environment on the top priority and I recognize often times you know this
comes with you know some scared but I tell you most of the interactions
that we have with kids are really very positive ones and it really starts
with the kids really is so thank you for your time Give you back to Dr Noonan. Alright. Thank you Chief. (applause) Alright I’m going to ask our panel
participants to come up and as they do I’m going to introduce them
and I’ll start with Rebecca Sharpe Rebecca is our director of student
services in the city of Falls Church School. Bill Bradley, Bill is the one of
the architects with Stantec welcome and Stantec if you don’t know is the company
that building or designing our new high
school. Like to welcome Eric Bosun who’s one of our students at George Mason high
school for being here today. Kristin Michael our chief operating officer is
here as well from the school system. Matt Hills our principal Mr. Hills and Tom
Polara who’s been mentioned repeatedly I think at this point to join us here. I
took the liberty of putting some questions together and I’m gonna– my hope
is that as they’re answering these questions that they may actually end up
in a conversation with each other or I may follow up with a question or a
comment and so I sent these to them the other day just to kind of look at so
they could start thinking about them and they were in an order and I’m not going
to go in the order that they were in so I’m sorry I guess I should have told you
that in advance but I do want to I want to start with Bill Bradley
actually from Stantec. Bill part of the reason that Stan tech won this award was
when they were doing their presentation they did talk quite a bit about safety
and security so I have my question here I’m just gonna ask it of you and
that is if you would share with us your thoughts about how a building and design
supports the creation of a climate of caring that’s both operational as well
as physically able to handle the stressors of safety and security and
then do you have any examples of other buildings that you’ve designed and how
have they created that space of care with respect to safety and security? It is live but they’re not going to be able to hear you because it’s actually live
to that so I’ll tell you what why don’t Can you hear me
in the audience? I’ll just I’ll just go ahead first of all thank you and that’s
a long question so if I don’t get to everything remind me of the part at the
end about other schools that I may have designed but thank you to you to you
chief to the League of Women Voters for having us here to talk about this today
and as I sat and listened to you present again I was
reminded of the lengths that everyone goes to operationally to
provide safe environments for our teachers and students and that’s
really moving and I’m grateful for that because I’ll confess that as an
architect there’s only so much that I can do to protect. Frankly I can delay
and discourage and I’ll talk about that in a moment but I want to qualify my
remarks by saying that the first and foremost and chief you mentioned this
I’m a parent. I’m a parent of two high school students. I have a freshman and I
have a senior and over the course of my career as I’ve designed schools they’ve
been growing up and it’s through their collective eyes that I filter every
decision I make whether it’s about how they will learn or how they’re interact
with their peers or the environments that their teachers will teach in or how
they’re made safe and secure so for me this is it’s not academic or theoretical
it’s very personal so in thinking about that we’ve talked a little bit today
about I think we’ve referenced the worst case scenario but when I think
about the kinds of things that my children face and their teachers face
and their friends face every day the spectrum is much broader and it’s the
kinds of threats that you referenced earlier. It’s everything from bullying
including cyber bullying but also gangs It’s people who who enter the building and
intend to do harm with weapons other than guns which is more likely and it’s
also teen suicide and so these kinds of things that Eric I imagine that you’ll
talk about just a moment are the things that I think about and so designing a
school I’m trying to design along a spectrum
and balance you know on the one hand the only way you can protect perhaps from an
active shooter is to design a fortress that’s not the kind of environment *unintelligible* and so in thinking about this only two
names to look up. The first is Dr. Julie Cornell. Dr. Cornell is a psychologist
the distinguished professor Barry School of education at University of Virginia.
He’s renowned in his field for studying meeting with students who have passed an
*unintelligible* and I know you’re very familiar with the DC sniper
his interview and along with many others The other one is Michael Dorn. Michael
Dorn is a former police officer now a forensic specialist who’s on scene
at many of these events. The message that both of them if you
look them up Michael Dorn and Julie Cornell
suggest is that the biggest thing we can do to prevent an incident is create a
culture of care but I heard Michael Dorn speak
three weeks ago at a school security summit in Chicago and he was speaking to the architects and
challenges to think about how we as architects create a community of caring
and I’ll share with you a little bit about what we’ve done with the new high school to
do that part of it has to do with creating connections. The high school as
Dr Noonan alluded is actually at some points in seven stories and so has the potential. Let me start over (applause) it has the potential to be very
compartmentalized in the way that George Mason high school right now it’s very
compartmentalized with its wings and hallways and so to do guard against that
there’s a great deal openness and transparency within the school and not
just between the classrooms and hallways the way that Dr Noonan showed but also between floors
so that between the third and the fourth floor for instance there’s a performance
learning stair that creates an open area for students to see and be seen. Between
the third and fourth floors is also an opening in the floor in a different part
of the building where again students can see and be seen. I’m going to
the second part of your question places that we’ve designed schools where this
community of culture caring has been promoted this places where the
teachers and the students are a part of a larger whole. It’s not one teacher who
is closed during his or her classroom a group of 24 students but along with you
know sort of take the middle school model instruction the
whole of the teachers responsible for the whole of the student body and
Dr Noonan you talked about having 2,600 students in the school district and that
every student is knowable and that’s ideal with the design is to make sure
that every student is knowable visible passively supervised and that each
student understands that he or she is cared for. I could go over specifics about the
design later but that’s probably enough for now Thank you I’m gonna actually let
Eric go next because Eric thank you again for coming and being part of this
today can you tell us a little bit about your experience at George Mason High
School and what have you seen and heard with respect to school safety. Do you
feel safe at school and what makes you feel safe or not safe and what kind of
worries you? Yeah so I’m a senior at George Mason high school this year.
I definitely feel safe in a general sense at George Mason. As Chief Gavin
says you know safety school safety starts at home and we also have a
culture of caring as Principal Hills has worked to promote and I definitely feel
safe in that respect you know safety is more than how well you can barricade at
door and I think that our school has historically done pretty well at that.
There are definitely some specific concerns that I’ve heard voiced by other
members of the student body but in general I feel like we have a pretty
safe environment and we’re definitely working as you can obviously see from
the prior speakers attempt to improve that as best we can Thank You Mr. Hills
let’s go to you as the school leader at George Mason High School what
steps do you take to support and the overall wellness and safety
both physical and emotional with your students that you serve and then
here’s a scenario for you a student hears from another student that their
friend is contemplating something serious. We don’t know exactly what that
what would be but with your experience what would happen if that were the case
and how have students reacted and if you could also talk a little bit about the
relationships that your staff has with students that would be great too Absolutely thank you and I think to Eric’s point we had an opportunity to
sit last week and kind of go over the first
question do we feel safe and we were absolutely in agreement you know as the
principal that’s my number one priority and it’s paramount and I think
it does go beyond the physical safety which I’m so glad Dr Noonan had an
opportunity to talk about all the reasons why we do feel safe physically but
you know when you think about the emotional wellness of our students that
is the top priority for us and we were reflecting on some of the things that
we’ve integrated into our schools over the last couple of years in terms of
making sure that students social emotional wellness is taken care of from
different programs that we’ve had. Recently as of Wednesday this past
Wednesday we have our advisory periods where teachers were talking to students
about their emotional wellness being in a desired state versus being in an
undesirable state and what are some of the stressors we face as students and a
community and that went all the way from teachers to students and we were able to
really have those difficult conversations and I think that goes to
Dr Noonan’s point about building relationships in the building. You know I
can tell you about when I first started in education years ago much of what we
saw in the classroom was teachers teaching content all right. In order to
make sure that we develop a culture of caring we now need to shift towards it’s
not just about the content which mind you is very important It’s about how do
we build these strong and positive relationships with students from the
administration to teachers to custodians to our counselors. It’s not just a
counselors job to be able to know if a student is in a particular state and
that’s something we take very seriously. I think it’s something that that we make
sure that we focus on in all of our classes and that really does have a
trickle-down effect and when you talk about a particular experience what I can
share with you is we make sure that students they hold one another
accountable. As we mentioned it can’t just be you know the administration finding
out a particular issue with the student it has to be other students feeling
comfortable and confident that they can come to a counselor that they can come
to an administrator that they can go to a teacher and share information and that
is what has happened in the past and tell you immediately when we have
had an issue and I know Chief Gavin mentioned four as of last year. I cannot
begin to tell you how quickly we were notified of this because we have
students who care about one another and we’re able to make sure that those
students feel supported and so when you think about the culture of caring it
does it starts with the administration kind of has a trickle-down effect with the
counselors and the teachers but the students work together and I’ve never
been in an environment where students are really able to hold one another
accountable but care about each other in a manner that allows us to facilitate
safety so I think that’s where it comes from. Great thank you
I’m gonna ask you to pass that mic down to Rebecca Sharp. Rebecca is our director
of student services in the city of Falls Church Schools and I think what Mr.
Hills and what Eric and what Bill well more Eric and Mr. Hills have done
is sort of just outlined sort of the importance of the emotional safety and
the emotional wellness of students versus the hardening of school so I see
it it sort of two sides of the house if you will so can you talk a
little bit about what student services is and then what in that world supports
school safety and security and what do you see happening with that. Right. Good afternoon.
Thank you for having me here. School safety you know we’re all here because
it’s of the utmost importance and learning can’t a car without it and as
Dr Noonan said the folks that work in my department which are the student
services those are folks who are our social workers our school counselors our
public health nurse our school psychologists our behavior specialists
and all of those folks are in our schools every single day. They are first
responders. They’re the folks who sit on our crisis teams and on the slides one
of the things that they talked about was the threat assessment team. The school
psychologist the social workers the counselors work with the administrators
to make sure that the structures and supports are in place
that’s what within my department. We kind of we focus
on really the social and emotional well-being and we come at it from a
multi-pronged approach. We really look at things in terms of education and
prevention and when I talk about education it’s how are we training our
teachers and our bus drivers and our paraprofessionals and our folks in the
cafeteria who are there on the frontlines with our kids every single
day to recognize stressors in students to recognize any triggers to help build
those relationships and to help foster those connections and they’re the folks
that when they see that student that’s isolated they’re the folks that can work
with the kids and help reach out to that isolated student to bring them in and
get them the supports that they need Another piece that my staff works
diligently on really is prevention and that means that we’ve got supports in
place for students when we recognize that they are struggling with their
emotions or that their stressors going on in their family that are impacting
how they’re feeling when they’re coming to school and we do a lot of work in the
area of prevention all of our counselors and our social workers and our school
psychologists in every single building in this division conduct small group
sessions with kids. They also offer one-on-one counseling for kids and that
has is such a valuable resource so that when we recognize that student really is
struggling or that family needs some additional support that we have that
person who is right there attached to them managing that case. Another piece
that we really work hard with in terms of prevention and education really is
the training that we’re providing to our staff and in fact we just got finished
doing some supervision training with staff to make sure that you know not
only are we aware of what’s going on physically but we’re aware of what’s
going on emotionally and what’s going on with technology. What is it that’s going
on you know when kids are using nology and are we as adults aware of what what’s going on and that we’ve got good relationships with our students.
Another piece that we’ve really started to explore and we’re working towards
bringing to the division is Mental Health First Aid. I’m sure everybody in
the room is familiar with the Red Cross and the standard first-aid training that
comes from a really a practice of first aid for physical safety. We’re looking at
modules for a standard of practice for modules for mental health first aid so
that when we do recognize you know that students are struggling that we have
good skills that we feel like as teachers and as paraprofessionals
and as administrators and folks that work in schools that we have the skills
and the knowledge to when a student is dealing with a lot of anxiety or
depression that we have a good foundation for how can we start helping
that student. Another piece that I wanted to talk about is trauma-informed care. We
have you know a lot of students who are coming to us now who’ve experienced a
lot of trauma and how does that impact their interactions within the classroom
within the hallways and with each other as students and how they interact with
adults and so we’re really working hard to build up that trauma-informed piece
as well so that we as adults know the right ways to respond to to students who
have been impacted by trauma and the last thing I want to leave you with the
most important thing that the folks in my department really do is to build
relationships and help to facilitate connection so that when we recognize a
family you know needs help that we help connect them to resources whether it be
mental health resources whether it be that the families in crisis because you
know they need you know some financial assistance. It may be that they need
you know just access to counseling services and supports and those are
things that our staff does every single day because we are in our department
we really are focused on the social and emotional well-being in the mental
health care and our folks are there also after a crisis happens to really focus
on the stabilization and that aftercare plan in making sure that both the
whether I don’t like to use the word perpetrator but that is a word the
perpetrator in a school safety incident has the supports that they need and the
victims have the supports that they need and so those are the roles that the
social workers the counselors and our school psychologists take on it when
you’re talking about school safety so I’ll be here to answer any other
questions If I can I wanted to add one thing for you talked about the role the
the student social services and the counselors and the whole student
services suite has been located but a surgeon decision that was made earlier
moment to locate them on the third floor along with the students so that they’re
right there have immediate access and can can do
that kinds of for forensics that you’re talking about to identify potential
stressors and trauma so that’s one thing that we’re doing that’s a really key
point you know that when I was showing that first floor entry you know I got
the cafeteria in the auditorium there but the main office on that first floor
will have mr. Hills a front office staff but as bill indicated all of the other
administrators all of the school support will be part of a support suite on that
third floor where all of the mm-hmm academic core academic course is our
beginning so thanks for sharing that Kristen Michael is our chief operating
officer and Kristen as a chief operating officer first of all what are the swath
of responsibilities that you have in that role and then what do you see
happening with respect to those roles that go to the hardening of school of
our schools so thank you so much for the question
I am responsible for facilities foodservice
technology daycare Human Resources finance and transportation so kind of a
broad swath of activities and and I’ll talk about the hardening but first I
also want to talk about all of the relationship building and all of our
support departments this year relationships have really been a key
focus and something we’ve really looked at we’re the department that starts off
with the first touch of our students in the morning and the last touch at the
end of the day right we see kids when they’re getting on the bus right we see
kids throughout the day right whether we’re interacting with them as we’re
cleaning or working in the facilities serving them lunch and then after we
serve them in our daycare program after school and transport them home right so
relationships have really been key and that has really happened with the
support of everybody here at this table right student services and Rebecca’s
team has done a fabulous job training all of us in terms of supervision of
students really looking at relationships things what we’ve been working on
building with all of our staff and Thomas been absolutely outstanding in
terms of providing us with training in terms of responding in an emergency and
transportation did receive all of that training over the summer is really the
initial kickoff so they’ve been really integral at helping all of us serve
students together so when we look at the hardening of the building there’s the
obvious hardening of the building when we look at things like all of our
exterior doors ensuring that they’re locked that they can’t be pulled open
that we’re actively monitoring them with cameras but it also goes to helping all
of our support staff really be aware of what’s going on in terms of our doors
when you think about gaining access to school facilities right support
departments are often the ones that have those exterior doors whether they’re the
custodians going in or out the securitas staff that facilities and Sevi Padilla
oversees right or food services who’s getting deliveries through the loading
dock right so really thinking about how are we monitoring those exterior doors
and ensuring they’re hardened but that hardening also goes further when we
start to think about things like information technology right how do we
ensure that our students are safe and protected on the internet what things
can we put into place to try to protect them and prevent some of bullying
harassment and those other components so really is that collaboration as we think
about how are we serving students and then also our daycare program also
provides great opportunities for students to engage in positive
activities both after school and during breaks so whether you look at the
summer or school holidays that program really does engage students all the way
through the middle school level which is again a positive activity that supports
staff facilitate Thank you and last but certainly not least on our panel as we
kind of move into the hardening of schools is Tom Polara who serves as the
fire marshal and also is responsible for emergency management here in the city of
Falls Church and so Tom you know one of the things you’ve heard we’ve heard now
a number of times is ALICE and what is ALICE and Stop the Bleed is another
active solution and those are two areas that our schools are actively engaged in
working through to support the overall safety
and security of the building. Can you can you describe these? Sure I’m not sure if
you wanted to show this (you want me to) Yes
you want me to set it up? Sure
so this video here is called the first 12 minutes. It’s what we’ve put together
which it combines the ALICE principles along with Stop the Bleed. We’ve been
teaching this program to houses of worship our private school all city
employees and now our school system so we’re really proud of what we’ve
put together here. Based upon what all these great folks have talked about you
could see how multifaceted safety is when it comes to schools so this is the
part that we really don’t want to talk about too much the active shooter part
but we need to In today’s world we’re met with the reality of active violent
incidents almost every day and every community is plagued with the thought
that it could happen in the schools in our churches and our malls. Falls Church
police the fire marshal’s office and office emergency management have
embarked on a new program called the first 12 minutes. We’re moving from what
was a passive response approach to active shooter events to a proactive
response approach. We were trying to develop a program that would encompass
both first aid which is the tactical emergency casualty care otherwise known
as Stop the Bleed into a program that worked for barricading locking down and
confronting a shooter. We decided to go through the ALICE program and what we’ve
done is we’ve taken facets of the ALICE program into the first 12 minutes so
ALICE it starts with the alert getting good information. ALICE stands for alert
lockdown inform consent and evacuate. The first 12 minutes is broken
up into four sections. The first section is about history and
research of active violence incidents all around the world and in that section
they described the speed of violence the number of incidents that have occurred
in and around this area and around the United States.
– When you look at active shooter events many of these events have high
casualty counts and it’s due to the way we respond and we create a target-rich
environment by putting people in a corner waiting for the police to arrive
and that’s not the way to do it so this program people are spread out people
distract the shooter and people will confront the shooter. The first tactic
taught is the barricade for survival It’s really imperative that we
understand that we can and will survive these incidents if we take action. There
are common sense type actions. The first thing you want to do is avoid the threat
and secondly if you cannot avoid the threat you need to barricade yourself
for survival. You barricade yourself with the thought of what’s my next step and
that next step might be evacuating. That next step might be having to confront a
shooter We teach the participants how to swarm and defend because studies will
show if they’re distracted if they’re assaulted they have a less likelihood to
kill people if you can swarm and stop the threat and detain the subject then
you have the best chances for survival As a law enforcement trainer in the
first 12 minutes class my responsibility is to educate the participants on the
weapons that are normally used in an active violent situation. During that
time I also talked about the ballistics of these weapons. This is important
because when we talk about things like cover concealment and staying out of the
fatal funnel which are usually law enforcement terms it helps the students
have a better understanding of what we’re talking about if they’re ever
involved in an active shooter situation Another vital educational component to
this class is educating the participants on law enforcement and fire response. By
doing this they’ll have a better understanding of what the initial and
secondary responsibilities will be of all first responder personnel on the scene.
-The last step in this program is the tactical emergency casualty care.
When people are shot they start to bleed and if we can stop the bleed the chances
of survival are great. What is it that you can use
in the midst of your everyday things that you carry or what’s maybe in a
classroom to help you survive and or to help somebody survive that has been shot. These are the types of things that we’re trying to teach in the program where we
change the way of how that response was before to a new response and one where
the individuals on the inside are empowered and being empowered makes all
the difference in the world you do have a chance and you do have the right to go
home to your families and that’s what this program is all about. We’re looking
forward to fortifying the community ensuring resilience and making sure
people know that can survive in the worst case scenario of an act of
violence incident. Talk a little bit more about and also if you could verify that swarming technique *unintelligible* The preferred technique is not to be there is to
evacuate and to get out of the building so for quite some time now my job has
been pretty much studying active shooter events specifically in schools not so
much from the perspective of law enforcement and fire but from the
perspective of those in harm’s way. What can we learn from Columbine that we
haven’t already learned? What can we learn from Virginia Tech that we haven’t
already learned? So when you start looking at these you start to see
that those that are in harm’s way they’re the first responders and how did
they respond? Up until this past year most classrooms if they were told to
lockdown they didn’t know why they were locking down.
Were they locking down for a tornado for a police action up at the intersection
or for a shooter behind their door? They didn’t know why so the alert piece
becomes critical. Why what are we doing and what is are we locking down. It needs
to be good information right information to right people at the right time so we
should know whether or not there’s someone in the building with a weapon
and where are they located because what we want is we want people to
evacuate the building so if I know something’s happening on the other side
of the school get out of the school but if I’m nearby I might have to take that
approach where I need to barricade. if I can’t barricade and if I’m in that room where
the shooters coming in now we need to deal with how do we confront the shooter
so the process that we’re teaching right now is the ALICE program. We’ve come a
long way to say the least and I guess every time we teach this
class there’s the aha moment because we go through scenarios in which we
actually line everyone up in a corner how we would do a traditional lockdown
what do we do we put everybody in the corner we turn off the lights we
cover the glass and we hide and can a shooter still get in if the shooter gets
in typically we just created a target-rich environment. When we looked
at the statistics a dynamic police shooting is somewhere between the
percentage of hitting the target is somewhere between for a police officer
somewhere between 20 and 30 percent. In an active shooter scenario that’s
between 50 and 70 percent so when you say why you have to look at how are we
responding and if we’re putting everyone in the corner we’ve just created a
target-rich environment. The next step is understanding the speed of violence so
for quite a while and even today it’s still happening where law
enforcement and fire trying to figure out ways we can respond faster how do we
get into the school faster how do we get paramedics in. You’ll hear the term
rescue task force. We want to get firefighters and EMS folks with
ballistic vests and we want to get them in there with our police officers but if
you think about it most active shooter scenarios it’s over between six and ten
minutes and law enforcement may get on the scene and a good response time is 12
minutes so they’re already at the recovery phase of the operation. They’re
not at the rescue phase. They’re at the recovery phase so who in the classroom
can be the first responder and that’s why this program is so critical. We’re
now teaching the teachers how to respond It’s not a topic that we really want to
discuss and every time we go through this program when we start the
conversation it’s extremely difficult. By the time we’re done with our practicals
for the most part everyone feels so different. They feel empowered. They feel
like they can control the situation and they feel like they have a
right to live. They have a right to continue on and we’re showing them
techniques that in which they could do that so that’s mainly the ALICE program.
The stop the bleed program if you think about how we respond as a society to
certain events if you look back at the Las Vegas Rte 91 Festival who
transported most of the folks to hospitals? It was citizens. Citizens were
transporting in the back of pickup trucks so when we think about the speed
of violence how long it’s going to take for folks to get on the scene to help we
have to have certain things in our classrooms in our school. A tourniquet a
tourniquet applied can save a life. Understanding how to do stop the bleed
becomes critical so the the program that we’re doing right now with our school
system we’ve got about half the teachers through the program it we’ve got we’re
working tomorrow with about another eighty or so but then we’re going to
have to exercise it and we’re going to have to improve upon it but I will tell
you we are leaps and bounds beyond where we were and we’re so far
ahead of other areas that are not doing this. There’s another program
called what’s the program used in some of these other jurisdictions
it’s Until Help Arrives and Until Help Arrives is a great program but it’s
mainly focusing on the first aid piece of it but it’s not focusing on what if
that shooter is coming through your door how do I respond what if the shooter is
down the hall how do i barricade so these are all critical pieces of the
response element and how we deal with school safety. The preparedness piece has
been long ignored nationally as far as teaching our teachers and it’s now
time that we teach everybody Great thank you. What has happened was
what I was afraid was going to happen. And that is that we were going to
take up most of the time but before we go any further
I do want to have an opportunity first of all thank you for your very
thoughtful and comprehensive responses but I would like to invite the community
if you have questions for myself or for the panel that we may be able to answer
we certainly would welcome those and we’d love to hear it. yes we’re going to
bring the microphone around Just a couple of points thank you so much for
doing this. The mental health train you know first day at a Red Cross training
is just you know it’s fantastic that with respect to the glass messaging
in the new school thank you for doing that in my head
somehow there were Florida glass windows on both sides with sunlight coming in
both sides. I don’t know how that was going to work that’s that does kind of keep you know
keep coming back so I think you’re gonna need to continue to reinforce that.
I guess the last thing I wish there were some teachers here today. One of
them is on a plane so she can’t be here but you know I’m struck by that and
the teachers being the first responders and going through this ALICE training
now I just I guess I wish they were I don’t know if they were invited or
couldn’t make it or what you know it’s not their workday. I wish they were here
and I guess my one question would be do the teachers now have all the equipment
and everything that was mentioned in the ALICE training you know that tourniquet
or door stuff to keep the door you know the doors that open in you know all that
kind of stuff and what’s the plan for getting it for them? This is a
process right now so we’re showing them techniques and the techniques are
as far such as you saw people throwing something at someone entering the
door before they swarm you know our thought process there’s anything you
have what do you have that’s readily available you have books you have
staplers you’re throwing these things to distract a shooter and you’re going
towards the shooter to swarm. Some of these other things that you’re talking
about as far as the doors we show them different techniques but again this is a
process and you know we’ve been communicating back and forth as far
as where we have certain needs Okay. That’s great. I think stuff like the
first aid equipment you know the tourniquet or the gauze to jam
– The intent with these as to wherever you have an AED
my goal is wherever there’s an AED in the city anywhere it has a stop the
bleed kit with it Okay I guess my last piece of this is a really emotional
thing so I think we’ve done a really good job with the social aspects of you
know the school prevention I think that’s great
I think we need to continue that conversation about the you know
extremely extremely unlikely but nonzero chance that something terrible is going
to happen and so I think we just need to acknowledge how emotionally dicey that
is especially for the first responders who are going to be that Definitely it is emotional
and when we started working with the teachers and I went through the training
myself and when I went through it I mean I
was it’s just a jolt to even to look at for the first time and some of the
stories that Tom tells about whether it’s Columbine or the like are they just
sort of bring back this sort of historical trauma that I think all of us
as a nation went through during these really terrible times and so
being cognizant of that is certainly important and but we are committed to
you know continuing this process and making sure that we continue with the
social-emotional aspects but also hardening where we can Hi yes my name is
Heidi. I have a daughter at Mason sorry for my shaky voice. I get nervous and a
daughter here at MEH and my daughter at Mason mentioned to me that she
understands that now she’s not supposed to possibly a change in training that
they’re not supposed to shelter in place that they’re supposed to evacuate so I
guess my question is you know at this point in time what is the students
understanding based on a certain situation what they’re supposed to do? That’s great so thank you for for asking your question. At the beginning of the
year we sit down with all grade levels and we go over our lockdown procedures
that are in place. There are a few distinctions between let’s say a tornado
or a hurricane as opposed to you know another emergency. Currently in place
right now we do have several lockdown procedures that do not incorporate
evacuating the building so I’m a little bit curious to see where she’s getting
some of this information but as you can you know probably ascertain when we’re
talking about transitioning into a new program and we’ve been meeting with
some of our student leaders to talk about the ALICE program some of those
questions may have come up and you know that’s something that we’re gonna
be meeting. I know Eric and I just sat down a little while ago to talk about
some of the things we need to do to continue to communicate with our
students so they understand that what we have in place is what we have in place
and that you know as Mr. Palermo said look there there is going to be a
transition period. We’re going to move to ALICE but it is a
process. We’re not there yet. Thank you all for very informative and obviously
very caring presentation. My question is a little bit beyond the mechanics of
what we’ve discussed today what can we do as a community and as a school
district to lobby for changing the laws and the policies in our state and in our
country to provide more mental health support and more gun control and
I think that this is something that a lot of people in our community are
passionate about and agree about and so I’m curious you know what we can do
together to help reduce the need for these types of trainings and
possibilities That’s a really great question and thanks for asking it. Wach
year and I’ll talk more locally than perhaps nationally but each year the
school board and the City Council both put together legislative programs and
legislative packages and this year as part of the legislative package that’s
being put together there is some commentary in there about the need for
I’m trying to remember exactly what it is but it’s mental health services and
school safety. Some of the hardening pieces I don’t know
policy wise from and I think your question is maybe how do we
begin to affect and impact policy with respect to you gun ownership or the
like. I don’t know that it goes that far but it does speak specifically to how
can our state legislature legislature support us in the area of
mental health and also with some of the other ways to harden a little bit more. I
think remaining active in the community is absolutely important both with your
school board and also with your City Council but perhaps even more so
from the national perspective maintaining those relationships with our
our local legislators in Congress and and Senate to begin to push some of
those because I worry as well about access to weapons and the like and
that is also part of our just by the way part of our threat assessment processes
when we go through it with students and with parents we ask do you have access
to weapons and if so how and then get with the parents as well and
talk to them about it. Yes sir Hi I’m Sean Dakin. I have a son and just
started at Mason Joseph and been part of the community for a while and do a
lot of work on gun violence prevention and gun control. First of all I just want
to say thank you everybody here do an awesome awesome job for everything you
can do in the schools which as chief Gavin said is great but it’s the
community as a whole and so I would I would say that one thing that we can do
as a community is be very clear to parents that the number
one way that your child could die is having access to guns in the home.
Okay. American Academy of Pediatrics just
released something about this. My wife is a pediatrician.
She works at Kaiser here in town and we could do much more as a community about
educating all of our parents about how dangerous guns are in the home and how
important it is for them to lock those guns up and that we could be doing I
think a lot more proactively we’re doing a lot of reactive stuff we’re talking
about what could happen in the event of an active shooter but the reality is is
that any kid that gets their gun a 99% of time they’re going to get their gun
from their parents right and so it’s the parents that have the responsibility for
locking up their guns and I think we as a community have a
responsibility for educating parents. We can’t require them. We can’t mandate them
but we can make it very clear that they need to lock up their guns okay and I
know that chief Gavin you have a gun lock program right so you can get your
gun locks for free but I would like to see a lot more proactive communication
from the school system and the city about this particular issue. Thanks There’s a actual framework plan that the
IACP which is the International Association of Chiefs of Police has for
gun violence prevention in a community and it’s scalable. I just think it’s the
Joyce foundation that actually funded this and I’ve taken it for Falls Church
and take those measures in and I guess apply them to the city and a lot of it
has to do with what is your gun how many guns do we have in the city
and how many gun incidents do we have in the city and it doesn’t matter
if it’s a gun being turned in or if its gun actually being shot or to suicide. We
measure all gun incidents. The additional thing what it talks about is
community partnerships when the gun dude was in the city of Falls Church is
probably one of my best informational community partners that I had because he
was all about responsibility in assisting me in getting the information
that I needed what was going on in one in the shop in or just in the community
in general about gun safety and a matter of fact I think a lot of the moms that
demand action I told them to go to the gun dude talk to the gun dude sit down
with him and understand the process that he has to go through but I will
share with you the scalable version of the Falls Church Gun Violence Prevention
plan and I welcome your input Laura before you go I want to we have another
student here and I don’t want to put you on the spot young fellow but I did want
to ask if you had any comments or questions perhaps that have been raised
for you either at school or from this presentation. One question that I had was
will students be given a training that’s kind of similar to the one that was
shown in the video a few minutes ago like how to barricade a door or how to reduce bleeding from a wound or how to like find a safe evacuation route That’s a
great question. Thank you for asking it We are trying to sensitively work
through what that would look like at the high school and at the middle school and
so at some point in the not-too-distant future we’ll probably take pieces of it
and slowly train our kids as we drill around some of these things so it
wouldn’t be all at once but there may be in one drill for example might be
okay guys we’re gonna we’re not going to lock down today instead we’re gonna
barricade so let’s practice what it would look like to barricade and
on that so thanks for asking that question Bill do you want to I just
wanted to add again talking a little bit about the design to share with everyone
that in talking about the evacuate the e in the ALICE that as part of the school
there are a number of required by code fire safety exits but in terms of
getting students to those exits without having to flood the hallways there are
doors between the classrooms in the back of the classrooms so the students can
matriculate from one classroom to another to another to another
before then evacuating into the halls and into the stairwell so you
don’t have to as you might imagine now pour into and you talked about a funnel
the fatal funnel right we’re trying to reduce the size the window of
opportunity for that fatal funnel It’ll be quick two quick comments and a
question. Comment is I just want to come Matthew and Dr. Noonan and your
principals on the communication piece. I think that is very very important. I will
never forget a couple years ago some daycare employees got into an
altercation this is before your time at TJ. No students were you know threatened
but they saw the altercation and so when the students got off the bus everyone’s
talking oh and by the time we got home Paul Swanson already had a letter out so
I think that getting out in front of these types of situations the
principals or you letting the community know I think this is terrific.
My question is in terms of the middle school level that’s when a lot of
mental health issues start begin to present. Kids are going through puberty
that sort of thing what kind of education goes on at the MEH
level in terms of helping students understand hey when your friend is
behaving like this it might be a warning sign get them some help so I just didn’t
know what we do at the MEH level to kind of help students see warning signs in
their friends. I’m gonna ask Rebecca to be on call in case she wants to chime
in as well but I will say the one one of the areas that I think you heard us touch on a number of times relationship building and making sure that we know each of our students but
also as part of that being accessible when there is an incident and letting
kids know and this is part of the training we do with students is if there
is something that you need to talk to us about you can ask for a flash pass for
example to go see school counselor or see a school psychologist. You can always
in a critical moment if you need some support get that extra support. We also
tell them to talk to a friend and then we empower those friends to come forward
also and share with us if there is something that’s going on talk directly
with a teacher. My take on it is sort of it’s the ritz-carlton model of
support for kids so if you say something to paraprofessional that may be the
first person you say something to but that person is going to refer the
student to someone else and then that paraprofessional is going to come back
around and say did you get the support you need so it’s the first and last person I don’t know if you want to add anything to that No I think the flash passes are
really critical. Another piece is that we don’t just think about the middle school
well I think one of the things that’s beautiful about the division here is
even as young as there are three and four-year-olds at Jesse Thackery they
have a program called Super Friends what does it mean to make me a Super friend
what are those characteristics so that I’m there as a good friend to help my
classmates and then when the kids move into Mount Daniel we have all the
classrooms are participating in second steps which is a social skills
instruction because you teach those skills when kids are young and then when
we move to TJ we have the tiger paws program that goes on there where kids
are being reinforced for you know supporting each other and being kind and
demonstrating those characteristics to MEH where you know the kids work in
you know on collaborative you know learning activities. If you walk down the
hallway you’ll see one of the the culture building activities of that’s
gone on here at the middle school and then when you move into the high school
you’ve got things like every Wednesday morning mindfulness is offered at the
high school in addition to the work that they’re doing with– that they’ve just
started with the desired state so across all five of these buildings you have
such caring adult and kids from the time that they walk into our buildings till
the time they walk across the stage and ring that bell. That’s the message that
they hear is you know we love each other we care about each other we’re here for
each other. Sorry that was long No I’m glad you said all of that because that frankly has been how so we you heard earlier we had four
critical incidences that you didn’t hear a lot about because students came
forward and a student said something to another student and those students felt strongly enough or comfortable enough to come to the adult so thanks for reinforcing that. One
other thing I do want to mention is that with respect to communication and it is
one of the areas that we’re continuing to stay focused on because I
appreciate the fact that you got information quickly but if there is a
crisis circumstance that school messenger is really important for us to
be able to get information out quickly through text through phone through email.
It is how we use it for school closures school delays or don’t use it
for school delays sorry about that whatever but so the important
thing is that all of the information that we have be as updated as
possible so if you can remind your friends and family to always continually
update their information that way we can get information out quickly. I will say
that this community does an outstanding job of talking with each other
when there is an incident or an issue that comes up and so often that
word of the mouth moves much more quickly than we do as a school but in a
crisis communication circumstance we want to make sure all that information
is up to speed so I want to be thoughtful about your time and about the
time of the panel so I’d like to thank the panel and thank them with me. I also
want to thank Martha and Bill again for pulling all of this together and the
League of Women Voters will be here for a little bit longer so if you had a
question for us individually that you wanted to ask certainly are open to that.
Chief Gavin thank you very much for being part of this and I’ll turn it back
over to Bill and Martha if there’s any closing remarks that you all want to
make. Just thank you all very much for coming in here for your attention but
also for your input the comments you made to the panel and
to our speakers and I think we’ve really gathered a lot about the
importance of communication to lay in this so I hope you’ll take it on and
share with your friends and your colleagues. Thanks very much for coming

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