If you spend any time reading the news, you know that threats of school violence are a troubling reality. I did a quick online search and found stories from Texas, Nebraska, California, and Minnesota about threats of school violence that had been made in the past few weeks. Experience tells us that over the course of the school year, we can expect to deal with threats. I'd like to share our plan for responding to threats in hope that you will better understand the thought that goes into making the decision to keep our schools open or closed.
When we receive word that a threat has been made at one of our schools, our first action is to call the Paducah Police Department. Our police have the training, the authority, and the tools to investigate and assess a threat. Detectives work with our faculty, staff, and administrators to identify the author of the threat. Once detectives have assessed the situation, they then tell us if it's safe to keep our schools open.
Once that determination is made, we send a message through KiNVO to parents of the students at the building effected by the threat. We inform them of the facts of the incident that we can legally share and any actions that are being taken to improve the safety of our schools. If the police tell us it's not safe to go to school, we will not go to school. The police are charged with ensuring the safety of the community. We trust them to do their work, and we will follow their directives.
A difficulty that we deal with when a threat has been made is that information about the threat is likely to be communicated via text and online posts from students almost immediately. Frequently this information is incomplete, distorted, or just plain wrong, and it causes unneeded stress and alarm.
One way that you can help is if you hear second-hand about a threat that has been made at one of our schools, don't share it or pass it along. Know that we are actively investigating the threat in cooperation with the police and that we will communicate with you as soon as we have the facts of the situation.
However, if your child comes to you and tells you about a threat they've seen or heard, please don't hesitate to call your principal, assistant principal or the Central Office. First-hand information always is helpful in every situation. If you prefer to report suspicious activity anonymously, you can call the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security tip line here to make a report.
Our efforts to make our schools safe and secure are ongoing. At the beginning of this school year we installed Ident-A-Kid, a visitor management software system, district-wide. With Ident-A-Kid, our building security is enhanced through badges that include a current photo of the visitor, as well as all pertinent check-in information. There is also a sexual offender alert system. The system can scan a visitor's driver license and then quickly check the government offender's database.
Research on school violence prevention says that the primary method of prevention is for students to have a relationship with adults that they trust. If a student has a trusted adult that they can go to when they have heard or seen something, and they can trust that the adult will do something about the threat and also protect the student from any sort of retribution- this is the environment that is most effective at preventing school violence. Which takes us back to our vision at Paducah Public Schools – to know each and every child by name and need. It is in the context of relationships that trust is learned. When a student knows a teacher or staff person, they learn trust. And our faculty and staff earn the trust of our students as the students see the congruency between what we say we are going to do and what our faculty and staff do. As adults are consistent, trust builds, and the relationship grows. That's the essence of our vision, and it all works together, not only academically but also for the sake of school safety.
As superintendent I'm going to do everything I can to ensure the safety of our children and our faculty and staff. But I also have a dual role in that my own children attend Paducah Public Schools, too. Know that when we look for ways to make sure our schools are safe and secure, and when we talk about creating a school culture that prevents threats and acts of school violence, I'm not just pursuing these goals as the leader of the district. I'm also pursuing these goals as a father that deeply loves his children, just like every parent and guardian in our community loves their children.