February 16, 2018: School Safety

Hello, Black River Falls Community! This is Dr. Shelly Severson with the School District of Black River Falls here to share this week’s installment of our Spotlight on Schools!  This week we’re going to talk about a topic that nobody in the country wants to talk about.  Ripped straight from the headlines, I want to take a moment to talk about school safety.  Perhaps you have heard the devastating news out of Florida where once again a community has been ripped apart by a shooting at their school.  The violence that erupted at that high school on Wednesday has left our country in grief and despair.  There are no words to describe how deeply something like this affects schools across the country.

Despite our grief and sorrow, this event reminds me to take this opportunity to update you about the safety measures the School District of Black River Falls has in place.  The safety and security of our students and staff is our top priority, and therefore the district has a comprehensive crisis plan.  The district administrative team coordinates closely with law enforcement to monitor and update these plans on a regular basis.

Since the remodeling and facility work of the referendum, all of our schools have well-established security measures which are in place on a daily basis.  From the locked doors, visitor check-in procedures and surveillance cameras to our close partnership with the local law enforcement offices, we try to be thoughtful and proactive at every turn.

We have also adopted the A.L.I.C.E. plan to replace the traditional “lockdown” procedures in the classrooms.  A.L.I.C.E. is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.  We practice active shooter drills and intruder drills as a staff, as well as practicing with students in the building.  The A.L.I.C.E plan creates flexibility in how staff and students respond to a school safety issue.  Under certain circumstances, the “lock the door and hide” strategy might be appropriate.  In other cases, the teacher and students might barricade the door of the classroom, or it might be wiser for the teacher and the students to flee the building altogether.  The majority of district staff has been trained in the A.L.I.C.E. plan, along with representatives from the city police and the county sheriff’s department.  Also, each of the buildings has an evacuation site that they have pre-arranged to be able to use in the case of an emergency at the school building.  

All of these efforts are practiced, much like when we were in school, and we did fire drills each month.  (We still do those every month, by the way!) Practicing drills like this can be stressful in and of themselves.  Nobody ever wants to have to use these skills, yet if we don’t practice them and should we ever find ourselves in a horrific situation, we would not be able to rely on our memory and rehearsed skills to carry us through.  An example of this would be like last November when we had the bus accident.  The students had just practiced the bus evacuation drill the previous week.  When the driver was unable to assist the kids in exiting the bus, they did an exceptional job doing exactly as they had practiced!  Students remained calm and handled things impressively!

Another area that I’d like to briefly talk about is the emphasis we have on building relationships.  After all, when you hear about these horrific events, they are almost always associated with a student that felt isolated or rejected by the students and school in general.  Through building strong personal connections, we hope to address the social and emotional needs of our students as well.  Our schools are the cornerstone of our community, and we must all be vigilant when it comes to the safety of our students.  Parents, students, staff, and even community members should always feel comfortable sharing anything that seems odd or strange or threatening.

Finally, my door is always open for you to share your concerns, questions or thoughts.  Whether it be in person, by phone, or through electronic communication.  We will continue to work together to keep our students and our schools safe.

On a much lighter note, we can celebrate with the boys varsity basketball team as last night they defeated Arcadia to guarantee a piece of the Coulee Conference Champion title! Congratulations to these athletes and coaches, and good luck in the playoffs!

The girls varsity hockey co-op is also on a very successful roll!  They earned a win last night in the first round of playoffs and are moving forward to play Sun Prairie next Tuesday.  They have been ranked in or near the top 10 in the state throughout the second half of the season.  We have high hopes as they continue through the playoffs!  Once again, congratulations to these athletes and coaches!

As always, thank you so much for your support of the School District of Black River Falls!  If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me!  Let’s show our Tiger Pride in all that we do!
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