Tragically, here we are again.
Debates rage on - in mainstream and social media - about gun rights, mental health, and the safety of our children. On Wednesday, the President weighed in, calling for more teachers to be armed.
At Friends School, we will not take that step. However, there are multiple proven safety measures we are taking because your children’s safety, and the safety of our staff, come first.
I am using this space this week to remind our entire community of the effective training we conduct regularly, and the physical improvements we have made to our campuses.
As a school, we are committed to keeping students safe at all times, and we take active measures to prevent a tragic event from happening in the first place.
It is our firm belief that every school’s staff should be trained in ALiCE emergency response training. ALiCE stands for Alert, Lockdown, inform, Counter, Evacuate. Three years ago Friends sent Mandy Stepanovsky and Meg Hansen to become trainers in ALiCE. Mandy and Meg lead our Emergency Management Team and they have trained our teachers and staff to follow protocol to assess any situation and decide on the best course of action to have a greater chance of survival in the potential event of an intruder on campus.
Since Meg and Mandy took the ALiCE training in May 2015, there have been 169 school shootings in our country. ALiCE empowers teachers, staff and students in the event of an active shooter. Research clearly shows that empowered teachers who know about countering, barricading, and evacuating have given their students far higher odds of survival than those who simply hide and wait.
As far as we are aware, Friends is the only school in Boulder County to be fully trained in ALiCE protocol. Friends School has been commended by the Boulder Police Department on our proactive engagement on school safety. Meg and Mandy want to get this same essential training into other Colorado schools. This spring they will meet with the administration of Boulder High School to discuss how Friends trains our staff and students and to hopefully convince other schools to adopt the ALiCE protocol. .
ALiCE is a proactive, highly-effective standard of care adopted by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, FEMA, the Department of Education, the FBI, the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services as well as all 50 states.
Friends staff are fully trained annually, we conduct regular drills, and our staff receive monthly reminders and updates about procedures and protocol, as well as a mid-year refresher course. We conduct real, age-appropriate scenario training for students that allows them to feel confident, safe and empowered.
At each campus, and at each building, Friends has a number of measures in place. We are constantly auditing our campus to make improvements.
Our safety features include:
- locked doors with secured keypad entry systems on all buildings
- protective window film to create shatterproof glass at all entrances
- only one point of entry for guests in each building
- other exterior doors are locked and need a keyed entry
- front desk presence in all buildings
- emergency lockdown security system with mushroom buttons in the elementary building
Other essential parts of our emergency planning include:
· training staff and students not to let anyone unrecognizable in the building
· training staff and students not to prop doors at any time
· ongoing training for our dedicated Emergency Management Team in most current protocol
· in-depth staff training with scenario work twice each year
· monthly reminder emails to staff to keep protocol in everyone's minds
· staff-manned parking lot duty at morning drop-off ensures students are safely led into the buildings
· clear evacuation and re-unification plan
· School Resource Officer assigned by the Boulder Police Department conducts regular walk-throughs of our campus and provides us with essential safety recommendations.
· Boulder Police Department has reviewed and recognizes that our safety policies and practices, facility safety measures, and staff training are advanced compared to most schools.
· emergency notification system alerts families to school closures and emergencies in a timely fashion.
Mandy and Meg have conducted two parent information sessions this school year which cover all of the above as well as many more details of our emergency practices, protocols, safety features and the important reasons why we take this work so seriously. They also discuss the school’s expectations of parents on these topics.
We want to make sure that all parents receive this information. If you were unable to attend an earlier information session, please let us know because we will gladly host another event this spring. We want you to be informed.
When I first became a teacher in 1990, I never imagined that I would be thinking about and planning school safety as I do today. I don’t know of another educator who entered the profession with the thought that they may have to protect his or her students from an armed intruder. Yet, this is our reality.
I am grateful to Meg and Mandy for their unbridled passion for school safety, and to everyone on our staff who take the safety of our students so seriously. The ever-changing landscape of our world has, tragically, made safety preparedness an essential part of school life. Our foremost goal is always the safety of our students. Friends School prides itself not only on a secure campus, but also on a staff and student body that is very well trained in the event of a dangerous event.