MCS Continues to Evaluate School Safety Measures

MCS Continues to Evaluate School Safety Measures
Posted on 02/28/2018

Our hearts continue to ache for all who are impacted by the tragic events in Broward County, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It is with deep sorrow that 19 years after the school shooting at Columbine High School and six years after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School that we are grieving for another seventeen lives lost.


Protecting our students and staff will always be our top priority. Still, there is no guarantee that any school will be completely safe from crime, violence, or disaster. There are many political debates about what should be done about gun violence. We believe school safety is a complex, community issue that needs a multi-faceted approach with input from students, staff, parents, residents, law enforcement, and government and mental wellness partners.

 

District Safety Program & Practices

Mason has implemented several new initiatives in recent years to increase the safety of our schools. That work is ongoing, and our safety plans are never “finished products.” Our safety protocols are reviewed regularly by our District’s Safe and Inviting Schools Committee which meets at least six times a year and is made up of staff, parents, community members, and Mason Fire Department and Mason Police Department officials.


Some aspects of our district safety plan are visible to the public, while others are not. Some of our current practices include:

  • Ensuring secure entries at all schools
  • Giving card access points at each school for staff
  • Providing a direct surveillance feed to the Mason Police Department in emergency situations.
  • Equipping our schools and buses with cameras - including over 370 new cameras that are at Mason High School this year, with the remaining of our schools receiving the new equipment during the summer of 2018.
  • Using MARCS radios to alert all local and county police in the event of an emergency, and district two-way radios in schools in the event of cell phone outage
  • Regularly scheduled ALICE active assailant professional development and drills. Last May, the City of Mason and the District conducted a joint active assailant drill that helped both organizations practice and improve our emergency response capabilities.
  • Communicating with parents by phone and/or text in the event of an emergency using SchoolMessenger. Click here to opt into text messaging.

Safety Updates
Following the events in Florida, district and school administrators and law enforcement personnel met and are updating the district’s safety plan in the following ways:

  • Adding more School Resource Officers. Currently we have one School Resource Officer who is located at MHS and one DARE Officer who is located at Mason Intermediate School.

  • Requiring quarterly ALICE drills for each school.
  • Placing signage at every school exterior door directing visitors to the main entrance, and students and staff have been reminded that they should never “prop” doors open, or open doors for students or visitors during the school day.
  • Conducting additional safety audits with the Mason Police Department as well as private security firms.

 

District officials will continue to work with safety partners in reviewing other security concepts including bullet-proof windows and classroom door barricades.


Prevention Efforts

We strongly believe that we can better inoculate children against turning to violence by creating schools where students feel safe and supported. Some of our investments in mental wellness and prevention include:

  • School Counselors. The district has 12 school counselors in grades K-8 and eight MHS school counselors. Each school provides counseling services to help students with emotional issues, problem-solving, healthy decision-making, crisis intervention, anti-bullying initiatives, conflict resolution and substance abuse prevention. School counselors help keep students emotionally healthy and ready to learn. Counselors also regularly engage in college and career planning with students and their families. Our K-8 School Counselors hold on average seven counseling groups which focus on anxiety, social skills, self-esteem and relationship building.
  • School Psychologists. The district has 10 school psychologists who play an integral role in our schools - promoting mental wellness and preventing maladaptive behaviors for students. They partner with families, teachers, school administrators and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments that strengthen connections between home, school and the community.
  • School-Based Therapy. Mason City Schools partners with Solutions, to give students who need treatment during the day access to therapists at school. They treat students for anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, behavioral issues, and other mental health concerns. There are five Solutions therapists who have helped 93 students this year. Families can access a school-based therapist by connecting with their school counselor. Additionally, the district also partners with outside providers for an Alcohol and Drug school-based therapist, and contracts with a professional social worker who sees 47 students bi-weekly at the high school.
  • MindPeace. This year, we formed a partnership with Mindpeace (a non-profit advocate for access to high quality mental healthcare) and we are encouraged about their ability to help us connect with more community partners so that we can better serve students and their families.
  • Hope Squad. Next August, we will launch a Hope Squad, a peer to peer counseling program whose members are nominated by fellow students, that aims to prevent teen suicide. Learn more about Hope Squad in this story from WCPO.
  • Anti-Bullying Efforts. Keeping our schools safe means growing students who stand up to bullies, and who are not afraid to ask for help. Last year, a group of MMS and MHS teachers developed and launched Comet Conversations - including teaching students what to do if they need help coping using the COMETS method. MI has anti-bullying AWARE lessons delivered by school counselors throughout the year. Board Policy JFCF outlines that bullying, harassment and intimidation is an intentional written, verbal, electronic or physical act that causes mental or physical harm to the other student and is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for the other student.  If your child (or another student) is being bullied or harassed, please report the behavior to the Principal or the SafeSchools Tipline.
  • SafeSchools Tipline. Our SafeSchools Tipline has become an invaluable tool for preventing tragedies. This school year, the Mason City School District has resolved 51 tips on our SafeSchools Tipline. Half of the tips have been from students, parents or staff who recognized the warning signs of suicide, and took those signs seriously. Every tip SafeSchools receives about our district is immediately logged in the system and our administration is notified so that they can investigate and take appropriate action. Report a tip by:

1.    Phone:    513-972-4910
2.    Text:       513-972-4910
3.    Email:     1059@alert1.usa
4.    Web:       http://1059.alert1.us

Listening to Our Students

Our students are speaking up and asking to demonstrate their support of the Stoneman Douglas community. We are working with student leaders to listen to their concerns, and to support their vision in a safe and effective way. Any demonstrations are not school-sanctioned, and employees are not allowed to participate in walkouts that occur during the school day because teachers have an obligation to support students and it is inappropriate for staff to persuade or influence students to support a particular political cause.


How You Can Help
These issues are not simply school issues - they  involve our entire community.  In most of these horrific events, there have been warning signs. If you (or your child) see something, please say something!

 

Research shows that parents are a powerful influence in the lives of children. Reduce your child’s risk of harm by:

  • Knowing what they are doing, who they are with, and where they are.
  • Establishing social media rules, and monitoring their social media presence. Get advice on when children are ready for social media from Common Sense Media

  • Following your child’s friends’ social media accounts accounts.
  • Setting clear expectations for behavior.

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