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More than emergency response: Taking a holistic approach to school safety

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Photo of Superintendent Dr. Theresa Battle

Creating truly safe schools starts with every student knowing they are welcome and valued for who they are.

School safety is something that’s often on the minds of many students, staff and parents. In the wake of a tragedy, school safety is talked about on TV and in newspapers, especially security measures at schools. But inside our schools and district, we think about and work on school safety all the time and from all angles.

This fall, District 191 has adopted a new emergency response model. Called the “Standard Response Protocol,” it will help ensure our schools respond to emergency situations consistently and effectively. Some components will be familiar to our students, staff and families, but there is some new terminology involved, so we’ll be sharing reminders and information throughout the year on the model. 

So often, when we talk about school safety, we talk about the physical environment like locked doors and buzzer entry systems, or about our response when emergencies happen, like lock-downs and evacuations. 

Those things are important, but making our schools safe places for every student starts by ensuring every student knows they are welcome and valued for who they are. Every student should be able to bring their whole self to school without fear of being bullied, harassed or discriminated against. Every student should be able to turn to peers or staff members when they need support, and even if they don’t seek out support, they will be supported by people who notice and take action to help. 

If we have that, we’re living our core value of caring community. 

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. One of the most important ways we can make our schools safe is to act to prevent bullying or respond when it does happen. There are wonderful resources available online at stopbullying.gov, some of which we’ll be sharing on the District 191 social media channels. 

But the simplest and most important advice is encouraging people to speak up when they see bullying happen — to be upstanders, rather than bystanders. By speaking up and interrupting bullying behavior - even just by changing the subject or walking with the person being bullied - you can let them know they’re not alone, that they matter. Even one person’s support can make a big difference for someone who is being bullied. 

I’m proud of all of the work we do in District 191 to be a caring community so each and every student can blaze their own path, and I’m committed to ensuring we keep improving so that we have truly safe schools. 

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