National statistics continue to show that children are much more likely to be victims of violence in their own home or neighborhood than in school. But when shootings or other violent episodes do occur in schools around the country, parents can't help but wonder, "Is my school doing enough to protect kids?"
The truth is that Schalmont staff ask themselves the same question all the time: Are we doing enough? Have we hit the right balance between having schools that are open, friendly places to learn and having schools that are safe?
More than ever before, safety is an underlying theme in everything schools do. The past decade has seen a number of new state and federal safety mandates, plus higher parental expectations regarding safety.
Below is a list of many of the things we do at Schalmont to ensure the safety of students and staff.
In addition, a Subcommittee on School Climate & Culture formed in December 2013 to take a closer look at all aspects of the school community and continues to meet regularly.
In February 2013, the school board approved a number of additional security measures based on community feedback, which was presented by the district's safety committee in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy.
Det. Patrick Farry of the Rotterdam Police Department became the Schalmont Schools School Resource Officer (SRO) in September, 2014. Born and raised in Rotterdam, Det. Farry attended Notre Dame Bishop Gibbons High School in Schenectady, and graduated from Hudson Valley Community College in 1999 with a degree in Criminal Justice. He joined the Rotterdam Police Department as a patrol officer in 2003. In 2008, he became a detective/police investigator assigned to various felony and misdemeanor cases. He is a trained Crime Scene Technician, member of the Schenectady County Domestic Violence Task Force, and active in the departmentâ€™s Community Services Unit. Learn more
The district's Safety Committee meets every other month (more often, if needed) to evaluate ALL aspects of school life that relate to safety. Whether the concern is air quality, construction safety, playground safety, or preparing for a flu epidemic, having a committee of teachers, parents, custodians and other staff take a comprehensive look at these issues together has been very beneficial. Several of the improvements listed below grew out of Safety Committee recommendations.
Parking lot improvements for greater safety have included adding
security cameras. We have added traffic lines to separate bus and car
traffic for safety.
High school pupils who drive in an unsafe manner at school have their parking privileges taken away. Students who commit vandalism are made to pay for repairs to the school property they damaged. Teens that break the law at school are turned over to the police. This kind of firm response to inappropriate or unsafe behavior is a deterrent that sends a strong message to our students.
All students get a copy of their school's Student Handbook at the beginning of each school year, which includes the district's Code of Conduct, spelling out rules for appropriate behavior and the consequences of inappropriate behavior.
We have been fortunate to have a policeman assigned to our district full time for several years. School Resource Officer Rich Kranick is based at the high school, but works with staff in all three school buildings. He conducts site security surveys, addresses specific concerns as they come up, and has been very helpful in investigating and resolving incidents quickly. The visible presence of an officer, particularly at the high school, is another reason why the number of serious incidents in our schools is so low. Students, parents and faculty are encouraged to share with him any security-related concerns, either by stopping by his office or by calling 355-6110, x3024.
School nurses play an important role in ensuring students' health and
Protecting students' health and safety is what our five school nurses do all day. For instance, procedures to safeguard children with life-threatening allergies were recently updated with help from parents.
Starting in elementary school, pupils are taught how to keep their bodies healthy and how to say "no" to drugs, smoking and other unsafe (though sometimes popular) behaviors.
Teachers and teacher assistants receive training in how to recognize troubled pupils or those who may be at risk. Each school has a social worker and a Pupil Assistance Team to coordinate help for such pupils. Currently, both secondary schools are working to reduce their number of "disengaged" students by helping them form a strong and healthy connection with at least one adult at school. This is a key strategy for avoiding Columbine-type situations.
Every 11 months, the fire marshal and buildings and grounds supervisor perform a detailed room-by-room inspection of all schools and other district buildings for hazards. Their reports are shared with custodians, principals and the Schalmont Board of Education, and any needed corrective actions are taken.
As required by law, students have 12 fire drills a year. They also practice situations called a school "lock-out" (no one may enter or leave the building, but classes go on as usual indoors) and a school "lock-down" (everyone goes into the nearest room, locks the door and waits for further instructions on the public address system). The latter would be used to move everyone out of harm's way while a suspected threat inside the building (such as from an intruder) was evaluated.
Schalmont bus routes are written to reduce the number of children who must cross a road to enter or exit a bus. This is just one detail in the Transportation Department's comprehensive emphasis on safety.
School staff use and practice the same Incident Command System of crisis management that is used by police and fire officials for better communication and cooperation during an emergency. We also follow the safety and security recommendations of the State Education Department related to federal Homeland Security Alert Levels.
Schalmont staff members receive advice, training and safety updates from the Capital Region BOCES Risk Management Service. Thanks to the speed of email and the BOCES concept of local school districts working together on shared needs, Schalmont administrators are often informed about possible safety threats before these threats become public knowledge, which enables us to be better prepared.
Copies of the Material Safety Data Sheets for all potentially hazardous substances used in each school can be viewed by contacting the school principal. Also available for public perusal in the district business office are the district's emergency preparedness plan, asbestos management plan, annual fire inspection reports, and the results of testing for radon in the air and lead in the water.
Parents of Schalmont students are notified when the school district is
notified by police that a registered sex offender has moved into or
changed residency in the school district. Schools impacted by the
change in residency send letters about the sex offender notice home
with students. Information about the notice is also sent through the
Schalmont School News Notifier as "district news." Signing up for this
notification gives parents quick access to whatever information the
district receives from the state or town police. In the main office of
each school, copies of sex offender notices are kept in a binder and
made available to the public.
Community members also can find information on sex offenders at any time on the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services website.
Most importantly, our schools work hard to create an atmosphere in which everyone is responsible for safety and everyone will be listened to. No one wants schools that feel like a prison, but students, parents and all staff need to be safety conscious and to speak up whenever they spot a potential hazard. Continuing this dialogue can help us stay safe as our community grows and our society changes in future years. We really are all in this together.
The Schalmont District Safety Committee, comprised of staff, parents and residents, meets monthly to review and improve elements of safety within the district. Members include: