Special Message from Superintendent Bittman
ISD 728 Families, Students and Staff,
Recent events throughout the nation involving social media threats against schools and other senseless acts of violence such as the incident in Broward County, Florida, have generated increased questions and concerns related to the safety of schools. At times, these incidents and threats have also created anxiety and fear for some students, causing certain children to have reservations about coming to school each day. In ISD 728, safety is, and always will be, a top priority! All children should be given a welcoming, secure, and caring environment in order to achieve his or her goals and grow on their path to career or college. This is vital as we deliver on our mission to educate, inspire and empower our learners as we position them to achieve their dreams and contribute to our communities.
Having served in three different school districts and as Assistant Commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Education, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn with and from many local, state, and national experts over the years, including those from Homeland Security. While I continue to learn each and every day, I can proudly say without any reservation that ISD 728 serves as a leader and model for other school districts. The District’s comprehensive safety and security plans, ongoing training and available support, as well as its existing crisis / flight teams that are in place to prevent and address any tragedy are examples of the District’s continued success and commitment. Furthermore, the District continues to show dedication to continuous improvement, requires students and staff to receive ongoing training, and continues to collaborate with outside law enforcement agencies, resulting in updated and comprehensive crisis plans.
Most people are aware that the District takes specific steps each day for safety:
- Each school locks all exterior doors during the school day, requires all visitors and employees to wear identification badges after checking in to an office, and has cameras positioned throughout all of our schools.
- The District also has police liaison officers serving in each of the schools, and both students and staff continuously participate in ongoing training (i.e. A.L.I.C.E.) and planning with numerous law enforcement agencies.
- The District utilizes various communication tools (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, the ISD 728 Website, parent notification systems, etc.) to communicate when situations arise. While various laws limit what information can be shared, which can be frustrating for parents at times, the District prides itself on communicating as much information as quickly as possible to its stakeholders.
In addition, comprehensive crisis plans have been created and implemented, social workers and school counselors have been hired and are available, and mental health support is provided to prevent and address any potential crisis situation within ISD 728. “Safe School Committees” have been established, which involve stakeholders and experts throughout our communities. The committees address topics related to fostering a safe and orderly environment for all. Furthermore, because students have access to much technology, the District also closely monitors social media and technology use, which provides alerts for school officials and local law enforcement.
In many cases, our students are our best resource when it comes to keeping schools safe. We encourage them to talk with teachers, administrators and school liaison officers when they see something that might concern them, or something that they feel is out of the ordinary. Our staff recognizes that student feedback and reporting are essential, and works tirelessly to create relationships and environments that make that possible. All reports are taken seriously and handled in accordance with established guidelines and protocols.
Although ISD 728 personnel can and do provide support, parents and/or guardian involvement remains essential. Research shows the best things parents and/or guardians can do include:
- Calmly and rationally discussing safety with their children. Don’t worry about saying the perfect thing. Assure them safety at school is a priority.
- Stick to normal routines during the school day, which include practices related to attendance.
- Turn the television off if it helps. Children process images on television much differently than adults.
- Monitor your own stress and anxiety. Stay away from things that produce stress, including social media, if helpful. Children feed off of adults’ emotion.
- Gently and thoughtfully correct inaccurate information when you can, rumors can spread quickly.
- Verify information from the source (i.e. school). Don’t rely solely on social media or the news to provide information. There is always more to the story.
Thank you for your continued partnership, the safety of our children and families is our top priority. By working together, we will ensure that all students continue to have a warm, welcoming, and safe learning environment each and every day!
If you have additional questions or would like to know more about available resources, please talk with your child’s principal or me. We are here to support and to serve you.
Dr. Daniel Bittman
Superintendent, ISD 728