Camas School Board hears safety priorities

Committee: Support for no guns in schools ‘outshines’ pro-gun advocates

A Camas School District citizen advisory committee has narrowed its safety recommendations to help make Camas students and school staff safer in the future.

The committee presented the district with six areas for improvement. All are based on information gathered during two “listening posts” at Camas middle schools and an online survey conducted in March.

At the top of the committee’s priority list is: increasing staff training, constistently securing building entrances and implementing student-centered support systems.

The six priorities also include security at after-school events, locking doors and increasing security or police presence.

Steve Marshall, the district’s director of educational resources, and committee representatives Jack Baranowski and Rainy Rau presented the priorities to the School Board at the board members’ June 25 regular meeting.

Rau presented the first priority: providing ongoing training for staff. Ideas for this priorty include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training for staff, as well as having “secret shoppers” visit school buildings during a regular school day to scope out what is and what is not working when it comes to safety.

The priority also encompasses efforts to make the public aware of current district training practices, the development of an operations plan in each school outlining how police will respond during an active threat, rehearsal of active-shooter scenarios through a live drill, possibly providing schools with trauma kits and coordinating multi-agency emergency drills.

The committee’s second priority is to have consistent practices at school entrances, including the placement of an exterior “entry station,” where visitors are screened and checked-in before actually entering the building, Rau said.

One recommendation was for the distict to provide schools with door stickers telling visitors: “Please enter at the front entrance” on the outside, and “Please don’t open this door for other people” on the inside of the building.

The third priority is to provide student-centered support systems, such as web pages and posters that outline resources for “at-risk” students, or youth less likely to successfully transition into adulthood.

The third priority also recommends that complete student records be required for transfer students prior to admission; communication of student information to key personnel as far as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows; follow-up on students who are new or have been expelled; and an all-grade level, multi-tier support system.

The fourth priority focuses on safety during after-school events and closely ties in with another committee recommendation — to increase the presence of security and police.

The committee recommended the district consider the presence of retired law enforcement, create office space within schools for police officers who are on patrol, train volunteers to serve as security monitors, evaluate the size of the student body with the number of security resource officers (SRO), hire two additional SROs, who would each be responsible for a middle school and its feeder elementary schools, and to standardize school radios.

The committee also recommended the district raise level of awareness on locked doors, and have audible noise alerts on opened exterior doors that go off until the door is closed again.

“It’s an annoyance, but it’s a positive annoyance,” Baranowski said of the alarm idea.

The committee considered more than 200 points of input gathered online and during the safety listening post meetings and distilled those down to these six priorities, Marshall said.

“There were a lot of calls for guns in the classroom, and there were a lot of calls for metal detectors and bulletproof glass … that sometimes came at odds with feasibility,” Marshall said.

The metal detection stations would have to be staffed by four people, and providing one at each school with the possibility of multiple entrances, would be a big commitment, committee leaders discovered.

“You have to keep in mind, too, that for everyone who said, ‘We want to see some teachers who are armed,’ there were more people, by far, who said, ‘We do not want to see any guns in schools, except with the SRO,’ and that was loud and clear,” Marshall added. “The strength of support for no guns outshined the strength for more guns.”

Marshall said he is working with a nurse within the district to provide trauma kits and training for the 2018-19 school year. The kits will include items such as tourniquets and chest wound packs designed to quickly stop bleeding.

“The process for these safety recommendations has been thorough and every idea has been considered,” Camas School District Superintendent Dr. Jeff Snell said during the June 25 School Board meeting.

District leaders organized the safety listening posts and online survey shortly after a Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and teachers. “Unfortunately, we’ve become kind of numb to these shootings and then one grabs a hold of everybody, and now all of a sudden there’s all this gas on the fire and then it just seems like people move on, honestly,” Snell said during the meeting. “And we don’t want to move on from this, and the teams have been working hard, but we also want to capitalize on the momentum of this in our community because … we’re trying to get better.”

The Camas School Board will now determine how to proceed with the committee’s safety recommendations.