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Superintendents' Blog: Leading in a time of tragedy

Like many of you, I am also trying to process the tragic events, which occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida earlier this week. As a superintendent, I simply cannot imagine the amount of grief and remorse the students, families, staff, and community feel at this moment. As a dad, it is equally difficult to envision what my reaction would be if my kids were in a similar situation. Unfortunately, there are just no easy answers.

A natural reaction to situations like this is to ask questions like how is my school keeping my child safe, how is the school talking to kids about situations like this, and to wrestle with the best ways to discuss these issues with your child. I have attempted to provide some answers and resources to these tough questions below. For the school’s part, teachers will handle discussions that originate from this tragedy on a case by case and in an age appropriate way. Any students that feel overwhelmed or who are having difficulty will be referred to a school counselor.

As parents, we have a responsibility to assist our kids through this tragedy and to teach them how to handle difficult situations. Here are a few resources to help talk to your kids about tragedy:

As a school district, student safety is our top priority. Here are a few ways London has been focused on student safety:

  • During the 2016-2017 school year, LCS partnered with the Madison County EMA and the Ohio Department of Education to overhaul its safety plans;
  • After updating the district’s safety plans, all LCS staff received training by the Madison County Sheriff’s department in problem-solving during a school crisis event;
  • At least four times per year, each individual school building partners with the London Police Department to simulate a different emergency situation to better prepare students and staff in the case of an emergency. The focus on these drills is to reinforce effective problem-solving in the event of an emergency;
  • London City Schools has established a webpage and online reporting system dedicated to curbing issues of Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying (HIB). All referrals are investigated and followed up on. All staff members have been trained to recognize issues of harassment, intimidation, and bullying;
  • LCS recently replaced its campus surveillance system with new updated technology;
  • The district maintains controlled access to each of its schools and offices;
  • Within the last month, the district purchased 24 new radios. The radios are equipped to contact law enforcement;
  • LCS maintains teams of teachers and administrators that are trained yearly in Crisis Prevention and Intervention (CPI). These teams are utilized in case a student would present a potential harm to themselves or others;
  • LCS participates in Ohio’s toll-free school safety tip line SAFEROH (844-SaferOH). By calling the line, users can share information with school officials and law enforcement agencies about any issue of school safety.

Beyond tip lines, hardware, and investigations, it is important to note some other ways, LCS is seeking to provide support to our students:

  • At the end of the 2015-2016 school year, LCS hired a Student Support Specialist for the specific purpose of  supporting the physical, social, and emotional needs of our students.
  • Since that time the district has launched several initiatives in order to help support students including but not limited to:
    • Established a partnership with The Counseling Source to provide individual therapeutic counseling for students in grades K-12;
    • Partnered with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to provide student/staff/parent training on Signs of Suicide;
    • Partnered with Sufficient Grace to provide weekend meals for students in grades K-12;
    • Launched a program to provide training for students to support a Youth Led Prevention program;
    • Partnered with Big Brothers, Big Sisters to provide mentoring for students;
    • Opened the Raider Rack, a free store, that allows students to “shop” for new clothing and shoes.

LCS will continue to focus efforts on improving both the safety and positive climate in each of our schools. The bottom line is we all have a responsibility in this process. If you have further questions, I encourage you to speak to your child’s teacher, principal, or to contact the district office.