ST. GEORGE — Following the Florida school shooting last week, the Washington County School District sent a letter to parents reaffirming their commitment to safety.
The letter, which was sent by the Superintendent Larry Bergeson, mentioned steps the district is doing to make schools safer, including following a “standard response protocol” for emergencies, coordinating with local law enforcement and having resource officers in every secondary school in the district.
“Like you, we were shocked by the recent tragedy that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida,” Bergeson wrote in the letter. “Such senseless tragedies shake us to the core and once again, bring discussions to the forefront about students, schools and safety.”
The Feb. 14 shooting at the high school in Florida left 17 students killed and 15 more injured, allegedly at the hands of a former student. Although incidents like that are unpredictable, there are steps the Washington County School District can take to make schools more safe in the case of an emergency, district communication director Steve Dunham said.
“When you have an incident like the one you had in Florida, you feel scared, you feel uncertain, but we’re doing everything we can to keep students safe,” he said.
When there is a possible threat near or in the school, Dunham said the district follows a “lock down, lock out” procedure, where the exterior building doors and classroom doors are locked. This procedure is practiced frequently by Washington County schools in emergency drills, Dunham said.
“We are also one of the few districts in the state where every single secondary school has a school resource officer,” Dunham said.
The Washington County School District has had a school resource officer in every high school in the district since 1993, every middle school since 2002, and every intermediate school since 2004, Dunham said.
“Not only do these officers mitigate criminal activity on school grounds, but they also work to build trusting relationships with students so the youth feel they can report suspicious activity,” Bergeson wrote in the letter to parents.
In addition to having school resource officers in every secondary school, Dunham said the district works closely with all local law enforcement agencies to hold regular emergency training opportunities with them.
Many parents in the district have called the Washington County School District with concerns since the Florida school shooting, Dunham said.
“Some parents called us to thank us for sending the letter, while others wanted us to do more like add additional resource officers,” Dunham said. “There are always opportunities to improve.”
Dunham said the school district isn’t going to change any safety protocols at this time because he said the district is confident in the security provided by the existing protocols. However, there may be adjustments in the future to make schools safer, Dunham said.
“It’s important for parents to know that the 31,000 students who come to our schools every morning will be safe here,” Dunham said.
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