The Foundation of Monroe County Community Schools held a community conversation to discuss School Safety.
Press Coverage of the FMCCS Community Conversation – School Safety.
Panel: MCCSC school safety an ongoing effort: www.heraldtimesonline.com
Communication crucial, local leaders say:
By April Toler
331-4353 | email@example.com
As the parent of a kindergarten student, Meagan Eller feels good about the procedures and policies MCCSC has in place in an effort to keep students safe.
After attending Monday night’s Community Conversation, in which a panel of school administrators, local police and a local safety expert discussed the topic of school safety, Eller’s confidence in her child’s school district was reinforced.
“I was worried more of (the conversation) would be, ‘We need to do more, we need to do more,’” Eller said. “I was happy to hear that so much of it was, ‘No, we’re actually doing a pretty good job.’ That made me feel good.”
A handful of community members, school board members and faculty gathered at Jackson Creek Middle School Monday for the event, presented by the Foundation of Monroe County Community Schools.
Throughout the hourlong conversation, five panelists spoke about some of the safety initiatives taking place at MCCSC and fielded questions from the audience.
The panel included Judy DeMuth, superintendent of the Monroe County Community School Corp.; John Carter, director of planning for the district; David Pillar, Jackson Creek principal; Russ Skiba, professor in counseling and educational psychology at Indiana University; and Bloomington Police Chief Mike Diekhoff.
Herald-Times Editor Bob Zaltsberg moderated the discussion.
DeMuth kicked off the conversation by emphasizing how serious the issue of keeping students and staff safe is for the district. She said the steps MCCSC is taking include installing a buzzer system for visitors; creating a more in-depth safety plan; conducting drills; and keeping communication open between staff, students, parents and the community.
“What we have to do is continually have dialogue, talk about (tragic situations) and figure out if, in fact, we would be impacted by one of these situations, how would we handle it,” DeMuth said. “We are convinced the more we can talk about these things, the more we practice this, the calmer we will be in a difficult situation.”
In fact, communication was a continual theme of Monday’s conversation, with all of the panelists reiterating the importance of school staff, students, parents, law enforcement and the community keeping constant communication going.
“Dialogue is so important,” Diekhoff said. “I can communicate with the school corporation, but it’s so much more important for parents to talk to their kids. There are so many outside influences on your kids that are going to be negative. If you are there to have that dialogue with them, and know what’s going on, it’s so important and can really help stop a lot of things that could happen.”
That communication goes beyond face-to-face conversations, Pillar said. Parents need to continually monitor their children on social media sites, he said, and know their passwords to such sites.
“What I always say is, ‘Quit being your kid’s friend and be your kid’s friend,’” Pillar said. “That’s directed at Facebook. Two-thirds of what we deal with is from Facebook or social media.”
When it comes to plans and procedures, MCCSC continues to train staff, Carter said, and to help students know what they can do to help keep the school safe.
Although the school system has spearheaded a number of safety initiatives, especially in the two years DeMuth has been superintendent, administrators are also trying to keep a welcoming environment for parents and visitors.
Russ Skiba said that balance is important, especially when dealing with children. Districts also have to be aware of not only what programs are implemented, but also how they are implemented.
Skiba complimented the school on having greeters at school doors to counteract the formality the school’s buzz-in system may create for some parents. “We have to do all we can to protect our children, but what we have learned since Columbine and before is we also have to maintain a balance between the need to protect, physical safety, and the need to have a safe and nurturing environment,” he said. “It’s a balancing act I think MCCSC is doing rather well at this point.”