Safety and Security in Pittsford Schools
May 26, 2022
Dear Colleagues and Families,
The recent tragedies in Buffalo and Texas are further reminders of the importance of a safety first mentality in our schools. While there is no one preventative measure for stopping harm, know that PCSD continuously looks to best practices and routinely works with experts in the field to maximize student, staff and visitor safety. School safety is often described in terms of layers. The more layers that are in place, the deeper the District’s protection and safety. The purpose of this memo is to highlight some of these layers.
The District has installed Emergency Alert Buttons in every school’s main office. The high schools have an additional button in the principal’s office.
The goal of the Emergency Alert Buttons is to decrease the response time of first responders in the event of an emergency and to notify building occupants of an emergency in real-time.
When an Emergency Alert Button is pressed, the following will occur automatically and simultaneously:
- Call to 911 to alert emergency responders, which automatically allows the operator to hear what’s happening in the room
- PA announcement of a lockdown
- Visual alert to building computer screens and building/classroom telephones
- Email and text alerts sent to building Incident Management Team and District administrators
The Emergency Alert Buttons have been installed, tested and drills have been conducted. They are currently live.
Enhanced Phone Systems: New phones have been installed with enhanced security features, including an “office alert” button and a new warning system with the ability to send customized emergency messages to District phones, laptops, desktops, PA systems and 911 services.
Intruder locks are installed in classrooms throughout all nine school buildings. This allows doors to be locked from the inside.
Mobilize Rescue Units: Mobilize Rescue Units have been purchased for each school and provide instructions and materials to manage severe bleeding, cardiac arrest, seizures, choking, chest trauma, hypothermia, burns and more while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
Controlled access: through a single point of entry at all Pittsford School District buildings. Security additions include the installation of secure vestibules at all four secondary schools (double-door entrances), intercom systems throughout all nine schools, and controlled access through the main entry at the elementary schools. We are currently working with architects to acquire design and costs for double-door entrances at the elementary schools.
A computer-based visitor photo badge system: with expiring badges has been implemented at all schools. All visitor entry is only permitted through the main entry doors until the end of the school day. All visitors are screened and must present a valid form of photo identification, such as a driver’s license, before they enter the schools.
Monroe County Sheriff's Office Deputies: have full access to the schools and have increased their visibility/presence on school campuses. These visits enable deputies to better familiarize themselves with staff and students, as well as the layout of all nine schools.
Increased security video equipment and personnel: to monitor school property, including over 200 cameras. Video is only reviewed as necessary by administration and with law enforcement.
Continuous training of stakeholders: about the importance of keeping exterior doors locked and promoting a single-point of entry.
Safety protocols and training for substitute teachers has been enhanced and improved.
Emergency Preparedness Training
As a school district, we are routinely training, updating and adding new procedures to the PCSD safety and security plans.
- The District routinely trains with many experts in the field of school safety (Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigations and U.S. Department of Homeland Security) and continuously makes improvements as new protocols develop. Recently we have created safety teams across all nine buildings and at the district level. This summer, all teams, and the board of education, totaling about 100 people, will be trained in best practices from experts relative to prevention and responding to threats/incidents.
- Collaboration with local emergency support services ensures a comprehensive approach to PCSD’s emergency preparedness and response plan. The emergency plans are updated annually, and reviewed with local emergency service providers.
- The District works closely with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Town of Pittsford Fire Department, and Pittsford Ambulance to plan for emergency preparedness/response and to conduct large-scale drills with faculty, staff and students.
- Additionally, a Pittsford Town representative participates on the District Safety Committee to provide a communication connection with the Town's emergency services.
- Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has immediate and full access to all buildings along with photos of the schools and property on file for emergency response purposes.
- PCSD’s on-site security staff consists of New York State licensed security guards who receive regular and consistent training and have completed training from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on incident command systems.
In addition to these safety precautions, PCSD also puts considerable emphasis on prevention in school and in the community.
- Mental Health Programs and Services
The Student Services Department provides support programs and services for students and staff throughout the District including counselors, psychologists, social workers and other specialized mental health professionals. Student Services serves as the central point for social emotional supports and comprehensive mental health services, offers targeted services to students and promotes District health, wellness and safety. It also supports a variety of community partnerships and activities linked to safety and security.
Each of our nine school buildings has a mental health team comprised of professionals in a variety of roles to support students and families. These teams work collaboratively to meet the needs of students and families and utilize not only our District supports, but also maintain a connection to our community resources. One such resource is Pittsford Youth Services who provide social work support at our elementary and middle schools. Additionally, Pittsford Schools maintains a collaboration with the Pediatric Behavioral Health and Wellness Clinic at the University of Rochester Medical Center. This partnership supports education around mental health, staff and family collaboration with specialists from URMC as needed, and also provides a District-based clinic housed at Barker Road Middle School.
Our high schools have implemented a Sources of Strength program which consists of a diverse group of students and adults from different cultures and groups within our schools who work to ensure that during difficult times, no one gets so overwhelmed that they turn to violence or suicide. Sources of Strength participants learn about warning signs and how to approach a trusted adult who can help and provide the intervention necessary for themselves or a struggling person.
Most recently, the District and school buildings have formed Threat Assessment Teams who are completing training this year to provide proactive supports to students and adults. These teams will work collaboratively with the District Threat Assessment Team, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Behavioral Analysis Unit to create safe and supportive environments for students and staff and to decrease risk factors for violence.
- See Something, Say Something
The District continues to reinforce the “See Something, Say Something” campaign, and has conducted relationship mapping at all nine of our schools to assess the extent to which our students can identify at least one trusted adult at school. Our student body is our best means of prevention as they may be among the first to receive information about a possible threat to our schools.
- Parent/Student Support: Parent-student-school communication is key to preventing school violence. Parents are the frontline in identifying troubling behaviors in their children. When questions or concerns arise, parents should call their child's principal or school counselor so we can partner with you and your child to get the help they need to prevent potential escalation. Working together, we can keep students safe and secure.
- Code of Conduct: As a District, we have adopted a variety of safety and security policies and procedures, including a student code of conduct that is enforced fairly and consistently. All high school students are provided with a copy of the student code of conduct in the student handbook, which is also available on the District website; all other students are provided a summary in student-friendly language.
While we have made significant strides in both preventing and preparing for emergencies, our work is ongoing. Social Emotional Learning continues to be a growing area of education for us because more children are exhibiting stress and anxiety. As a community, I ask that we remain vigilant and always report any troubling social media posts or any troubling behavior that you see or that was shared with you. We are all partners in keeping our schools safe. I thank you in advance for your vigilance.
Superintendent of Schools