HEADLINES

Bethel Superintendent of Schools Talks School Security in Latest Newsletter, Parent Session on June 6 with Bethel Police

This week has been nothing short of tragic. This tragedy has generated a lot of questions from parents about our approach to school security. I had several parents ask me to host another school security session and it seemed appropriate, as we have not done one in several years. That Parent Session on School Security will be Monday, June 6th from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Bethel Middle School Auditorium with the Bethel Police Department. For those who can not attend, we will ensure that the session is videotaped. If you would like to attend the session, please complete this short Google Form.

When we designed Rockwell and Johnson Schools, we worked with a security consultant to ensure that all of the security features in those schools could be expanded into Bethel High School, Bethel Middle School, and Berry School. We have made tremendous progress in that work. We recently received two grants from the Department of Homeland Security which will speed up our timeline. In our session, I can talk more broadly about what is included in the grant. I did send a communication on August 6th, which went over some of the details.

In addition, as you are aware, this morning we had to go into a lock out on the advice of the Bethel Police Department for an issue unrelated to the schools. I thought it might be helpful to provide another overview of our safety terms and what they mean:

  • Lock Out: A lock out is when we have been informed of some type of outside threat on the campus. We conduct business as usual in the building, but will not let anyone in the building (including parents). Any students outside (i.e., physical education or recess) will be brought in. We would notify parents by email if we have any type of lock out drill. In the event of an actual lock out, we would likely notify parents by phone, text, and/or email as appropriate.

  • Hold: A hold is when we ask students to stay in classrooms for a very short period of time. It is typically not associated with any threat. Students and staff are not locked in and visitors can come into the building. An example of a hold is when a staff member or student needs to be transported by ambulance for a medical reason. We would not typically notify parents of a hold, unless there was an unusual experience.

  • Lock Down: Lockdown is when an intruder or criminal act is occurring in the building. Students and staff go into a locked space, out of view. Other than law enforcement, no one would be allowed in or out of the buildings. We would notify parents by email, phone, or text if we have any type of lock down (actual) and by email only (drill).

  • Shelter in Place: Shelter in Place is typically related to a weather emergency. We would ask students and staff to stay in place, but they would not be locked inside. We typically do not drill for shelter in place. We would notify parents by phone, text, and/or email if we had a shelter in place experience.

  • Evacuation: Evacuation drills are when we practice evacuating the building, the most typical is a fire drill. If there is an actual evacuation parents would be notified by phone, text, and/or email. If it is a drill, we will notify you by email.

Lastly, this FAQ was developed and communicated previously with regards to strategies to maintain safety in our schools

  • How can I get help for my child if they are anxious about their safety in school? Our School Counselors, Social Workers, School Psychologists, and Administrators will work with you to provide direct support for your child. All you need to do is contact your child’s principal and they will make that connection for the support. In addition, the National Association of School Psychologists has a helpful resource for parents on Talking to Children About School Violence.

  • What are the school protocols for addressing threats? How are they determined to be credible? We addressed our protocols in assessing threats in a December 6th communication to parents.

  • How as a parent can I support the schools in keeping our community safe?

    1. Monitor your child’s social media, and consider taking them off platforms. Tik Tok is particularly dangerous, but even other social media platforms can have significant damage to the mental health of adolescents and children. This article from Columbia University outlines how social media is destroying the mental health of our students. In addition, this article provides strategies for parents in limiting social media use with their children. As has been well-publicized, social media platforms actually create algorithms to make your child addicted to their devices so setting limits is extremely important.

    2. Delay giving your child a smartphone. Even with the best of parental controls, our students are smart and create workarounds to access inappropriate content. We have kindergarten students who have smartphones. This article from Psychology Today provides excellent guidance in making that decision. Generally speaking, it is recommended to be later in middle school.

    3. If your child already has a cell phone or tablet, utilize parental control features. It may take some time to set this up but the time will be well spent and pay off by providing a safer online environment.

      1. Apple (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch): Manage specific apps and features your child has access to. Restrict or block explicit content, purchases, downloads, and privacy settings to keep your keeps safe and limit their exposure. Passcode protect your settings so your child cannot change them. Visit Apple Support to learn about parental control features.

      2. Samsung (Galaxy phone or tablet): Google Family Link app allows you to manage and set rules for how your child’s Samsung phone or tablet can be used. Visit Samsung Support to learn about parental control features.

    4. Do not allow your child to watch shows or play video games that are violent. This actually creates a desensitization to violent acts and increases anxiety. We have students as young as second and third grade talking about watching shows like Squid Games. Children can not process the level of violence they are seeing and it becomes normalized. Platforms, such as NetflixHulu, Disney+, and Youtube, also have parental controls to manage your child’s access to content on a Smartphone or TV. Additionally, set boundaries for games (i.e. Fortnite, Roblox) or gaming platforms (i.e. Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PS4) limiting your child’s access to violent content, mature language, or voice/text chats.

    5. Shelter them from the news. Unfortunately, with technology, we are constantly bombarded with news. This 24/7 access heightens anxiety. Many of our children are seeing this constant news cycle through social media platforms. Limiting the access should help to reduce stress and anxiety.

    6. Cyberbullying and/or mean behavior is a serious problem. Almost all incidents of perceived bullying or mean behavior have origins on social media. Parents are looking to schools to solve this issue, even if it has nothing to do with the schools. We do have a responsibility to investigate, but we need your help in monitoring what your child is accessing and posting, providing consequences when appropriate.

    7. Adults need to model appropriate behavior on social media and the use of devices. Often adults are unkind on social media. Comments, reposts, and online dialogue often become mean and personal. In addition, people make authoritative statements that they really know nothing about or perpetuate inaccurate information, which causes further problems. Our children see this type of behavior and the unintentional consequence is that they learn it is appropriate.

    8. “See Something - Say Something” - Most acts of violence are known. It is so important that we work with our children to report acts of violence. As adults, if we are aware of any potential threats or acts of mean behavior/bullying, you must report it.

    9. If your child is on social media, ask them not to repost or share any mean behavior, threats or symbols, or acts of violence. Again this perpetuates the problem and creates additional hysteria.

We will always communicate with you when an issue occurs. We take the safety of our students and staff as the highest priority. The Bethel Public Schools are constantly reflective of our practices to improve, but some of the issues are beyond our control. We are a strong community and if we continue to work together, we can keep our schools and town safe.

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