Dear Editor,

I attended the program that Hawthorne Junior High students planned on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 in remembrance of the 17 murdered students in Florida. Our students held one minute of silence and several spoke to the attendees. It was heartbreaking to listen to their heartfelt sorrow for their fellow students in Florida and encouraging to hear them openly discuss their fears as well as possible solutions that would make them feel safer in school. All of the students were incredibly well-informed, well-spoken and respectful of each other despite differing points of view. What an incredible learning experience for the students and those of us there to support them. It was a sterling example of true democracy in action.

The administration provided a suggestion list of “17 Acts of Kindness” that our students can perform. I hope parents and friends will ask for a copy and perform these acts of kindness together. I commend the MCSD administration for respecting the students’ desire to be heard and taken seriously.

​Béa Whitney

Hawthorne

MCHS Class of 1974

Newly Minted Substitute Teacher

Dear Editor and Community Members,

I’m sure that many of our community members are concerned with the increased incidents of school violence across our country. I would like to reassure all of our community that we take school safety very seriously. With respect to the increasing trend of school related tragedies in America, we have stepped-up our diligence with staff related training, student drills, and procedures to ensure the safety and security of all of our students and staff during school hours.

On Monday, March 12, I attended a Superintendent’s School Safety Meeting with Governor Sandoval at the Capitol in Carson City. All Nevada school Superintendents were allowed two hours with our Governor to express their individual efforts to improve security measures within their respective Districts and to express their collective concerns about what is still lacking for school security. Governor Sandoval was appreciative of our efforts to make our schools more safe to date and sympathetic / attentive to all of our concerns. Speaking on behalf of MCSD, I was honored to have this opportunity to meet with my Superintendent colleagues and our Governor for such an important conversation.

Generally speaking, all school district Superintendents were in agreement that we need to focus on two streams of protection in order to make our schools safer. First, most Nevada school facilities need a “harder campus,” or in other words, we need to make our schools more physically difficult for potential assailants to enter during school hours. These measures may require more funding for fencing, surveillance cameras, sturdy inside door locks, a single access point of entry, and potentially, metal detectors. However, not one Superintendent wants their schools to look, or feel, like a prison. Secondly, we need to focus on a “softer campus” as well. This includes educating our students to be respectful of each other and connect with all students, and make them feel welcome into our school community. Our school programs and extracurricular activities need to ensure a design with the purpose of connecting and engaging all students with their school culture. We need more trained personnel to address our students’ social-emotional well-being; which would necessitate the hiring of more guidance counselors, social workers, school psychologists, and especially more funding for local mental health professionals. Each Superintendent also emphasized the great need for well-trained and armed SRO’s (School Resource Officers) to be present on campus and at school activities. SRO’s will greatly reduce the possibility of school violence by maintaining a high profile at each school. Collectively, these highly skilled professionals are trained to recognize at-risk behaviors and respond with the appropriate resources and intervention.

As far as school personnel carrying firearms, this was a topic that was discussed with some degree of respectful disagreement between Superintendents. Ultimately, we all agreed that arming staff would be a decision best left for the local communities, local law enforcement, and district personnel throughout each school district within Nevada.

Governor Sandoval will be issuing an Executive Order that will mandate the creation of a Nevada School Safety Committee that will be comprised of parents, students, educators, administration, and other concerned community members. Their task will be to research the problems and solutions related to greater school safety and make their recommendations to the Governor.

As for safety precautions already in place in MCSD, we have brought in Mr. Jeff Kaye as a School Safety Operation expert over the past two years. He has assessed our security risks and offered us recommendations, including an SOP (School Emergency Operations Plan). We have adhered to his advice and added deadbolt floor locks to each room throughout our school district. This lock allows us to secure each room from outside entrance by easily depressing a deadbolt into the floor during a lockdown scenario. MCSD has created Safety Committees at each school who discuss safety concerns at each site. Classroom windows are being blocked with paper or curtains that make visual contact with our students from the outside very difficult. We’re working closely with our local Sheriff’s Office to ensure a strong partnership with our local first responders. Randy Adams has recently provided District personnel with Active Assailant Training. Jeff Kaye will be returning to MCSD to follow-up with further safety analysis, personnel training, and possible PoolPact grant funding to purchase and install fencing around our schools and to purchase surveillance cameras. MCSD has hired two Safe School Professionals who provide counseling to our students who are dealing with social or emotional issues. Ms. Kathy Trujillo has created a “Dream Team” of students, teachers, and parents who are working to improve upon the respectful climate at school and within the community. It is our highest priority to protect our children from any unforeseen and potentially dangerous situation.

Finally, I appeal to our students and community to take an active role in communicating with our school administrators. We are utilizing a new crisis hotline called Safe Voice in order to respond to crisis tips given to our District administration and law enforcement on a 24/7 basis. I would encourage all students and community members to use Safe Voice as a crisis hotline, and remember – If you see something, say something! Please reach out to your principal or the local police if you see suspicious behavior, including postings on social media, which seems to have the potential to cause self-harm or harm to others. By working, talking and listening together, we will continue to do our best to ensure our students and school communities remain safe.

Walt P. Hackford

Mineral County School District Superintendent

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