When school opened a few weeks ago, I reminded the school district's staff about the importance of school safety by reviewing the lessons of the Columbine High School incident last spring. Last week, the District Safety Committee held its first meeting of the year by picking up where we left off last June. The focus was on securing our buildings and addressing the needs of all our youngsters.
Each of the district's five building principals presented an update on the measures taken in their buildings, both before and after Columbine, to enhance security. Bus safety issues were also discussed. There are too many individual items to mention here, but a few examples illustrate how seriously this issue is being taken by everyone in our school community.
A new internal communication system, comprising radios that can also be used as cell phones, provide excellent and instant communication among each of the buildings' administrators, custodians and monitors not only during emergencies but during the course of each school day.
The emergency drill procedure has been changed in all the schools so that students are taken further from the building during evacuation drills. This is an important lesson learned from the bomb scare at the middle school last spring. Though that evacuation went very smoothly and was handled exceptionally well by the building's staff, it was recognized that the normal fire drill procedures needed to be modified for other kinds of emergencies. Note that we no longer call them "fire drills," recognizing that not every decision to evacuate a building is prompted by a fire.
I must note that false alarms like the one we experienced last spring are very rare in Roslyn. Our students behave very responsibly regarding emergency situations. For example, at Roslyn High School, there hasn't been a false alarm in the last five years, while other high schools have had multiple incidents of this kind since Columbine.
In the area of transportation, safety is always a paramount concern. All buses are equipped with a cell phone as well as two-way radio. There are several bus safety drills each year. Each driver is road tested twice annually.
Members of the committee acknowledged that measures such as locking the doors in elementary schools, increasing the presence of security officers and training staff to handle emergencies may not be as important as the early interventions taken on behalf of children. Unfortunately, most threats to student safety come from other students.
All of our schools have long had programs in place to address the development of students both inside and outside the classroom. Our Child Study teams focus on the needs of individual students. Peer mediation and bias reduction programs introduce students to the process of resolving differences without prejudice or violence. Numerous after-school athletic and extracurricular programs continue to play an important part in helping our youngsters develop constructive bonds to the larger school community.
The committee, which is co-chaired by the district's supervisor of Maintenance and Grounds and a parent, is a prime example of Roslyn's philosophy of broad-based decision making and active participation by staff members, parents, students and members of the community. The input and suggestions we receive from all committee members are an integral part of the process.
I continue to stress that there are no guarantees that a tragic incident can't happen anywhere at any time. But we should be reassured by the facts that so many individuals are taking the time to study this issue and by the serious efforts we are making to ensure the safety of our youngsters.