In the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, both superintendents of the Cache and Logan school districts have recently communicated to teachers, students, staff and parents. The message both share: our schools have tools available to prevent such tragedies from happening.
Both superintendents touted the importance of fostering a spirit of inclusion in schools among students.
“Student-led organizations provide opportunities for peers to lift and look out for one another,” said Cache County Superintendent Steve Norton in a statement. “The goal is to ensure that each student in our district is known and valued as an individual.”
Logan School Superintendent Frank Schofield said Logan High and Mount Logan Middle School have recently implemented a program referred to as Hope Squads.
“Hope Squads are groups of students,” Schofield explained in a statement, “who are trained to recognize signs of emotional distress in their peers, and then help those peers interact with school employees in order to access the mental health supports they need.”
Schofield said that as students receive that support they are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as violence towards themselves and/or others.
Schofield also said that recent technology programs at Logan High have made it possible for teachers and administrators to monitor any inappropriate computer usage, then respond accordingly.
Another piece of technology was also emphasized by both superintendents: the SafeUT app.
“It allows users to submit anonymous tips to mental health providers, school administration, and law enforcement regarding threats of harm,” Schofield explained. “It also allows individuals in crisis the opportunity to make personal contact with trained mental health professionals.
“All of our students and staff have been presented with the app, and our administrators receive notifications if their schools are referenced in any of the tips provided.”
Norton said it is a great tool for students and parents to use if they do not feel comfortable sharing information face-to-face. Norton also recommended the site Anonymous Tip as a resource.
Quick communication and response from law enforcement are other key issues both superintendents feel are necessary to keep students and faculty safe.
“Our district is in the process of implementing an Emergency Communication System in every school which improves the ability of school personnel and law enforcement to communicate in an emergency,” stated Norton.
Schofield explained that the Logan School District has a similar system which allows rapid communication between school staff and first responders. The system is referred to as DIR-S.
“DIR-S allows first responders and staff to identify the location of a threat on a real-time map of the school, which allows a faster response time by police and firefighters,” stated Schofield. The map function also allows school staff to make informed decisions regarding their response to emergencies, particularly when and how to evacuate a classroom. This program is new to our schools this year, and training for staff is ongoing.”
The other things that are ongoing in both districts are safety drills. Schools in both districts regularly hold various drills, which include shelter in place and school evacuations so students know how to act in certain situations.
Over the course of this last year the Cache County School District has retrofitted every classroom so teachers can lock their doors from the inside.
Superintendent Norton also emphasized the relationship the schools have with the Cache County Sheriffs Office.
“Our district, in cooperation with the Cache County Sheriff’s office, employs school resource officers who work at each high school and are available to assist in an emergency,” Norton explained. “Local first responders receive training specific to dealing with issues in school settings. Officers also visit our elementary and middle schools frequently to provide age-appropriate training and to establish positive relationships with students.”
Both superintendents closed their statements with commitments to keep students and faculty safe while at school. Both districts continue to evaluate safety protocols and engage with other organizations to improve security and to further support students and staff.
Superintendent Norton also provided links to various resources to help students and their families cope with and understand the tragic events in Florida.
School Shootings and Other Traumatic Events: How To Talk To Students (National Education Association)
Talking to Children About Tragedies and Other News Events (American Academy of Pediatrics)
How to Help Kids Feel Safe After Tragedy (PBS Parents)
Emotional Distress from Incidents of Mass Violence (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)