Update on School Safety Measures
Dear Parents, Staff, and Community
Safety and security of students and staff are always a priority in the Southern Lehigh School District. At this time, we would like to take the opportunity to share with you the safety procedures that are currently in place, and highlight areas of current focus.
Longstanding practices already in place:
Many of these plans and procedures have been in place for a considerable amount of time, and we continue to revise and review them as necessary. In the course of normal operations, we employ best practices and approaches to ensure that our community feels safe when entering or participating in activities in our buildings.
- A strong partnership with our Police Departments reinforced by our long-standing School Resource Officer (SRO) program that places a full time police officer in our district.
- Regular training for administrators and staff on the latest research and best practices in emergency management and school safety. Training includes areas such as threat assessment, emergency procedures, and supporting students.
- Safety and security plans for a wide range of potential emergencies, developed in collaboration with local and county emergency management teams and updated on an annual basis.
- Regular emergency drills involving all staff and students are conducted in each building
- All exterior doors are locked, and visitors are required to enter through the main entrance
- Camera systems at each building’s main entrance, which provide office staff the ability to identify visually and communicate with visitors before opening the door
- Cameras throughout the interior and exterior of all schools, and on busses. A recent investment in December purchased many additional cameras and expanded and enhanced coverage across all buildings.
- Initial ALICE (Alert Lock-Down Inform Counter Evacuate) training, built upon the federal recommendations for responses to threats within public settings, delivered to all staff
- Student assistance programs, counseling supports, and partnerships with other agencies to provide referrals to access mental health services and supports
Current actions and projects:
While safety and security within the district has always been continually reviewed and addressed, the tragic events in Florida on February 14 provided an all too painful reminder of the constant need to evaluate and update. The administrative team immediately began reviewing and revising our current practices and investigating both short and long-term solutions to contribute to increased safety and security measures. At this time, we are in a position to share some of those details with you. Some items recently completed and currently being worked on are:
- Reinforcing current practices with administrators and office staff
- “Spot Checks” of procedures to ensure they are being followed
- Walk-throughs and security reviews of buildings to ensure safety and identify any possible areas of concern
- Discussions with principals to identify issues of concern with entrances and establish short-term procedural solutions at buildings, while more permanent solutions are planned and discussed. Particular focus is being given to Liberty Bell, Middle School, and High School entrances and changes we can make now to increase security.
- A district wide facilities study is scheduled to begin in April. This study, carried out by an external architectural firm, will review all aspects of facilities in the district, including safety and security. Recommendations from that report regarding more permanent solutions to secure entrances and other security measures will be reviewed.
- Review of visitor entry to buildings during class changeovers
- Reviews of security measures, facilities and procedures with law enforcement
- Meetings with student leaders to gain their input about safety and security
- Working with building teams on the next phase of ALICE training, and plans for parent and student involvement in that phase.
Communication system for Safety Concerns:
The district is also establishing a communication system for any Safety Tips. Anyone with a concern regarding school safety can email firstname.lastname@example.org. All messages received at that email address will be reviewed by the Superintendent and assigned to the appropriate administrators for immediate follow up. Further announcements highlighting this communication option and reminders will follow in the coming days.
We are currently working on immediate steps to address concerns with access to our buildings. These plans will be finalized in the very near future, and those changes will be discussed at an upcoming board meeting and then communicated to all families and to community members visiting our facilities.
We truly appreciate our partnerships with our families, staff, and students, as we work through these issues. We will continue to provide updates on our work in the areas of safety and security as appropriate. However we must ensure that as we all discuss our concerns and share solutions, we are always guided by the need to keep students and staff safe. It is vital that we are not providing such specific detail that someone could access the details of our procedures, or any potential weakness that we are addressing, and use that information to cause harm to our students and staff.