The safety of our children and staff has and will always be our top priority.
The safety of our children and staff has and will always be our top priority. For many years we have been proactive and continue to be leaders in school safety and security. Our unique relationship with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office and local police departments is a national model that proactively addresses school safety daily. I have asked Captain Rick Francis to share a few thoughts with you.
A message from Captain Francis, school safety and security director:
Three years ago, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office assumed the lead role in school safety and security. On any given school day, we are responsible for approximately 68,000 children and 8,000 employees. Each day, our team prepares for the worst-case scenario and prays for the best-case scenario. Being responsible for Seminole County’s most vulnerable population is a huge obligation that we take very seriously.
Student safety in schools and classrooms is paramount. Today more than ever, families need to know their child’s school is safe and secure. In any successful learning environment, students should never feel anxious, worried, or at-risk. We have spent a great amount of time analyzing prior school shootings (as well as major averted school incidents) to bring those best practice efforts and procedures to Seminole County schools.
School safety is not achieved by purchasing a program or pieces of equipment; it requires efforts that integrate school climate, effective discipline, social-emotional learning, positive behavior, mental health, and academics through a multi-tiered system of supports. Equally important, comprehensive school safety addresses the most common forms of harmful or violent behavior that undermine school safety, such as bullying, fighting, school threats, and self-harm.
Our schools should not resemble fortresses. We cannot barricade against all possible harm, and trying to do so is counterproductive to maintaining a healthy learning environment. Excessive building security does not promote a sense of safety or student well-being, nor does it provide a guarantee of protection against an active threat. Reasonable physical security such as locked doors, access control, strategic fencing, cameras, and visitor check-in systems must be combined with efforts to promote a positive school climate. This includes trust among staff, students, and families where students feel connected and part of a close-knit and caring community, in which they feel empowered to report any safety concerns.
Over the past year, there has been much legislation passed to deal with maintaining a safe learning environment. Some highlights include funding for school hardening (visible security measures), funding for School Resource Officers, funding for more mental health counselors and training, increased information sharing, and enhanced threat assessments. I insist that the best school safety measure for Seminole County is a highly-trained and dedicated school resource officer in each of our schools. However, we remain actively involved with the Florida legislators and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) Public Safety Commission to continue to help shape future legislation to keep our children safe.
I was honored this school year to represent SCPS and the Sheriff’s Office at the Florida Senate, MSD Commission, Florida Association of District School Superintendents, Florida School Finance Officers Association, and several school districts by presenting our SCPS best practices with them.
We have implemented several school safety and security measures over the past few years. Some of these are visible, and some are not. This year for example, we launched our large scale family reunification app that utilizes a digital emergency management reunification system. It combines accepted best practices with mobile technology to provide us with a comprehensive solution should ever the need arise. We want our families and community to know that we continually review and adjust all elements of our school safety and security plans on a regular and ongoing basis to ensure both the safety of our students and staff.
Dr. Walt Griffin is superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools.
Captain Rick Francis is the safety and security director of Seminole County Public Schools.
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