On behalf of the Denton Independent School District, I want to offer my deepest condolences to the families affected by Friday’s tragic events in Newtown, Conn. This event has reinforced for all of us just how precious each child is and it is a reminder that each and every one of us must remain vigilant to ensure each child’s safety.
In Denton ISD, the safety of the students entrusted to us is our first priority. Keeping our students safe requires all of us to work together on many fronts. In our schools, we begin by emphasizing important values: treating everyone with respect, talking to a trusted adult when concerns arise, and creating a culture of support and belonging for all.
In addition to creating a caring and respectful climate at each school, we have implemented a number of measures to identify and curtail potential acts of school violence and protect our students:
• Every campus regularly conducts scheduled and unscheduled “lockdown” drills to ensure that our students and staff are best prepared to respond calmly should an emergency situation arise.
• Annually, each campus identifies a crisis response team and maintains a current crisis plan.
• Students and staff are educated in the appropriate responses and responsibilities in case of an emergency; these responses and responsibilities are practiced at each campus on a regular basis.
• Students, parents, and staff have access to a 24/7 communication system called ChooseToCare for reporting information to school counselors and administrators.With this information, our campus leaders can help prevent small issues from becoming larger and can offer the needed support and guidance that may prevent crises from occurring.
District wide, there are other measures we take to ensure student and staff safety. These include, but are not limited to: the use of strategically placed surveillance cameras, identification badges for all staff members, visitation procedures at all campuses and criminal background checks for all volunteers and employees.
At our elementary and middle schools, we have installed secure entry vestibules. Many of these security entrances were added as part of our 2007 bond program, and they have greatly increased the visibility and awareness of our school office personnel.
We also partner with local municipalities to employ a full time school resource officer on every traditional secondary campus. Our school resource officers remain “on-call” to assist at our non-traditional campuses as well as elementary schools. As a result of this partnership, they are best equipped and trained to be among the first responders for any emergency within the school district.
Through extensive collaboration and training with local emergency responders, our principals and teachers are prepared to respond to crisis situations. This week, our school district personnel are working with local emergency agencies to review current district procedures and make recommendations for improvement. At the same time, campus staff members are reviewing their procedures and making changes as necessary to increase safety and awareness on each campus.
As our nation continues to respond to this tragedy, it is important for all of us to work together and reassure our children that they are safe while they are at school. We appreciate the support and understanding of our parents and community, as we strive to maintain both welcoming and secure school environments.
Dr. Jamie Wilson is Superintendent of the Denton Independent School District