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Grissom column: Safety is top priority for schools

One of the goals for the Rowan-Salisbury School System is to maintain a safe and supportive learning environment for our students. In today’s world, safety has become a challenge to everyone.
“Our nation’s schools should be safe havens for teaching and learning, free of crime and violence,” researcher Stuart Henry has said. “Any instance of crime and violence at school not only affects the individuals involved, but also may disrupt the educational process and affect bystanders, the school itself, and the surrounding community.”
The Rowan-Salisbury School System staff works extremely hard in making safety a primary goal. The school system is allocated state funding to provide resource officers at each of our high schools for safety and security reasons. The state does not provide funding at any other grade level for resource officers.
In the past, the school system has used remediation funds to place resource officers in the middle schools. This year the remediation funds were drastically cut and the school system did not have another available funding source for these positions.
We are fortunate that the Salisbury City Police funded a position at Knox Middle School. The remaining municipalities and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office have made available through 911 quick dispatch of assistance, if needed. The school system will continue to seek funds from grant sources in hopes of reinstating the middle school resource officer positions in the future.
In September 2008, the Rowan-Salisbury School System received a $500,000 COPS Grant that was matched by the district in the amount of $500,000 for a total of $1 million to begin placement of security cameras in all high schools. Due to lower than anticipated costs, security cameras were also installed at several middle schools and at Horizons Unlimited. Security surveillance systems ensure safe school environments and deter weekend vandalisms and school break-ins. Security cameras are present on many of our school buses.
The staff members at each of our schools do a great job in practicing various scenarios in preparation for emergencies:
– Fire drills are required once a month.
– Practice “lockdowns” are required throughout the year, and officers from the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office attend many of the lockdowns to provide feedback for our administrative staff.
– Tornado drills are conducted during the year.
– Staff members monitor closely any visitors and strangers that appear on campus.
– All staff members are required to wear identification photo badges and visitors are asked to sign-in when entering the building.
Every school administrative staff completes a school-based Crisis Plan and designates individuals who will serve on the crisis team. A copy of the Crisis Plan is provided at each school site, and a copy is sent to the Student Services Department at the Central Office each year. The Crisis Plan is shared with staff and students as a preventive measure.
The Sheriff’s Office provides crisis management training when requested. Staff members have the opportunity for other types of training to help with emergencies such as CPR, first fid, blood-borne pathogens, medication and bullying training.
Each middle and high school received funds from the Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation to purchase automated defibrillators for the schools. Training has been provided to appropriate staff members on the use of this equipment. Parents share information with staff members on students with unique health conditions, again as a preventive measure.
The addition of the Connect-ED messaging system has afforded a quick means of communicating to parents when situations arise. We have used the system when schools have lockdowns, bus problems or medical situations. Parents are encouraged to continue to provide school office personnel with up-to-date contact information.
The number of reportable offenses and the number of suspensions has decreased each of the last two years. Our staff continues to review procedures and policies to ensure a positive and inviting school atmosphere, while making sure they are prepared for any incident that might occur.
– – –
Dr. Judy Grissom is superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

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