Administrators go back to school

More than 300 educators from around the Clark County attended a conference in Camas focusing on student safety earlier this month. The event, organized by the Clark County Safe Schools Task Force, included discussion about cyberspace, bullying, child sex trafficking, suicide, drugs, gangs, rapid response and threat assessment.

Local school administrators, counselors and security officers recently went back to school to learn how to foster a safe environment for Clark County schools.

Clark County Safe Schools Task Force puts together a summit each summer that shares new information and insights with participants. Nine specialized seminars were offered on Aug. 6 during a four hour period; participants chose four to attend.

“The crux of the summit is to inform administrations how to make schools more safe,” explained Dr. Ron Carlson, Jemtegaard Middle School principal and chairman of the Safe Schools Task Force. “We try to really understand all angles.”

Representatives from the Vancouver Police Department, Educational Service District 112, Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Vancouver Fire Department, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, AWARE, Inc and Unite4Life gave lectures and stimulated discussions.

Some of the seminars offered more specific new information, including technologies or drugs that are emerging. Others offered insight and ways to understand what students are going through emotionally.

Topics included cyberspace, bullying, child sex trafficking, suicide, drugs, gangs, rapid response and threat assessment.

“The break-out sessions were a positive this year,” said Bonnie Lock, an elementary school associate principal in La Center. “We could take classes more tailored to us.”

Clark County Safe Schools Task Force was formed in November 1999 and has put together 14 summer summits. Each year there is new information to share as more studies and ideas come out.

“There are old-timers and new people here,” said Carlson. “But they all have new responsibilities each year.”

Schools from Clark County public and private school districts, Washington State School for the Blind and Washington School for the Deaf attended the event. A total of 325 educators participated.

“It’s a way of staying up-to-date on issues,” added Tom Nadal, an administrator in the Evergreen school district. “Particularly cyberspace, gang and sex-trafficking issues.”

Most of the personal topics, such as bullying and suicide prevention, dealt with empowering other students on the sidelines. They encouraged talking with students one on one in the peripherals, since teenagers are much more likely to confide to another teenager than an adult. The common theme was always working on the environment and the community.

Others went into detail about ways to notice behaviors of students on drugs or the formation of gangs. While the lecturers realized that Clark County is a smaller county, they also wanted to prepare school workers for whatever could come their way.

“I was overwhelmed my first time,” said Carlson, “But to be aware takes away the fear and gives us a chance to react and respond.”