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What Middletown Area School District is doing to keep its students safe: Lori Suski

Posted 2/21/18

The horrific act of violence that took place at a Florida high school on Valentine’s Day took the lives of 17 innocent students and staff. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Parkland …

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What Middletown Area School District is doing to keep its students safe: Lori Suski

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The horrific act of violence that took place at a Florida high school on Valentine’s Day took the lives of 17 innocent students and staff. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Parkland community as they come to grips with this tragedy.

These senseless incidents in our nation’s schools serve as a constant reminder of the importance of school safety and security, but also the ongoing need to provide mental health services for students and families who need help.

In the aftermath of a situation such as this, many parents ask for resources to help support their children who may be experiencing fear and anxiety after seeing so much news coverage. The American School Counselor Association provides a variety of resources to assist parents and teachers in speaking with children about the tragedy and helping to allay their fears at www.schoolcounselor.org/school-counselors/professional-development/learn-more/shooting-resources.

In a similar communication this fall, the Middletown Area School District notified parents of the multiple measures taken to protect the safety and well-being of our students and staff which include, but are not limited to:

• All exterior doors at each school are locked down to prevent access to the building.

• All visitors to the building must ring a buzzer to be let into the building.

• Scholar Chip kiosks were purchased for each school office to scan driver’s licenses for possible sex offenders.

• All visitors in the buildings must wear visitor badges.

• Staff and students have been instructed never to open an exterior door to allow an individual into the building. Everyone must access the school via the main office.

• All classroom doors are locked to prevent entry of unidentified individuals.

• Security cameras are installed in all school buildings.

• A trained School Resource Officer from Lower Swatara Township is housed on campus and regularly visits schools.

• Quarterly intruder drills are conducted in each school using the A.L.I.C.E. principles (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate)

• Board policies are in place to address guidelines and regulations for school visitors and volunteers.

What can you do to support the district in maintaining the safety of students and staff? First and foremost, “if you see something, say something!” It is important that you notify 911 and MASD if you see any suspicious person or vehicle on district property so that it can be investigated by police in a timely manner.

If you are entering the school after being buzzed in, do not hold the door for the person behind you.

Talk to your children about the importance of reporting issues that cause them alarm — i.e. student bullying, students making threatening comments, disturbing social media posts, or any changes in student behavior that cause concern. Students are often our best resources for information. We can only do something if we know about it.

The need for student and parent mental health prevention and intervention has become apparent in our school community over the past few years. The district employs two full-time licensed social workers, two full-time school psychologists, and five full-time school counselors. These individuals are trained professionals who conduct mental health and threat assessments, psycho-educational evaluations, and provide counseling and therapeutic support to students K-12.

The district works with Pressley Ridge Counseling to provide school-based and family-based therapy for students and families who meet the criteria for additional support. If your child is experiencing issues with anxiety, depression, truancy, drug and alcohol abuse, trauma, or other mental health concerns, contact the schools for assistance and support.

Some MASD representatives are participating in a local coalition called Communities that Care to build capacity to provide additional parent and student programming to encourage healthy, supportive environments in today’s chaotic world. The district administration has been researching some evidence-based, prevention programs to implement in our schools as part of the 2018-2019 year.

Middletown Area School District remains committed to providing a safe and secure environment conducive to learning for each student and staff member. Please partner with us to make a difference in the lives of children. Our students need all of us!

Lori A. Suski is superintendent of the Middletown Area School District.