When eighth-graders walk to school, kindergartners hop off the bus and high school students pull into campus parking lots, our schools welcome them with open arms. Teachers, administrators and staff take responsibility for all of our 6,000-plus students throughout the day, with a mission to not only educate them, but to keep them safe.
In the wake of school tragedies around the country, the scope of that mission has dramatically widened. At Roseburg Public Schools, our goal has always been to provide the best education possible to our children. And increasingly, we must vigilantly work to protect their precious lives.
When it comes to protecting our children, we are all in this together. Our communities and families, our leaders and educators — we all play critical roles in ensuring students receive an education in a safe and healthy environment.
Our district’s work to increase the safety of our schools has been going on for years. But the sense of urgency is growing. A report from the Federal Commission for School Safety, formed in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, tragedy on Feb. 14, was released last month, outlining a variety of recommendations and data for schools across the country to consider. Roseburg Public Schools is well along the path toward implementing many of the guidelines shared in the publication and has been on this path for well over a decade.
Recommendations in the report run from creating a positive school climate and combatting cyberbullying to training school personnel and creating more secure facilities.
Creators of the report recognize that decisions about safety must occur at the local level and that a “one-size fits all” approach for schools around the country would be neither feasible, nor effective.
Roseburg Public Schools draws on the expertise of local and state resources to continue our work to make our schools as safe as possible. Partnerships with the Roseburg Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, “Safe Oregon,” an online anonymous reporting tool, and other agencies ensure our efforts meet our community’s unique needs.
We are working toward violence prevention on several fronts.
Elementary schools in the Roseburg School District are staffed by child development specialists who focus on character development and core values. We have added mental health therapists throughout our schools to better address students with mental health issues. Schools have also implemented a variety of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, programs intended to improve social, emotional and academic outcomes for students. Such efforts are key to ensuring all students feel a sense of belonging, influence and adequacy within our schools and community.
Many steps are also being taken to make our facilities safer. The Roseburg Police Department is in the process of assessing our buildings in order to evaluate our vulnerabilities and to improve upon our current safety plans. We are also sending staff members to a FEMA-funded mass casualty Incident Command Structure and School Crisis Response training in Maryland in the spring to bring back best practices.
Our schools are being equipped with “go bags” containing emergency supplies in case of evacuation or in case students need to “shelter in place” following a natural disaster. In addition, school resource officers are in place at secondary school sites, and police officers are always invited to eat lunch with our children. These measures, and many more, will help our students feel safe and protect them should the unthinkable happen.
Throughout this work, we continue to strive to ensure each child achieves academic excellence. Our students deserve to be protected, they deserve to feel safe, and they deserve the best opportunities for success in their futures.
Anyone who would like more information or to share ideas about the measures we are taking to protect students and the policies we have in place may contact me at the District Office at 541-440-4015.
Lee Paterson is the current superintendent of Roseburg Public Schools and previously served in this position from 2002 to 2008.
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