A Message from Superintendent Pero: School Safety and Security

Recently, I presented to my Parent Advisory Council on the topic of school safety. I asked them to think about our safety plan in the form of multiple layers, with each layer consistently reviewed and revised in order to add enhanced insulation from harm. Our most preventative layer is related to our culture and climate which is among the many reasons why such a significant emphasis is placed on social emotional learning. I firmly believe that when we create a culture that reflects the importance of traits such as empathy, compassion, understanding and belonging, we are operating from a strength based approach relative to keeping our schools safe.

This concept comes alive in all of our buildings through things like classroom compacts and professional development exercises where adults identify the students they know well and students identify the staff they view as a trusted adult. It is reinforced in programs such as Best Buddies, Sources of Strength, Web and Link Crew and See Something, Say Something, and is highlighted within the work our District Inclusivity Advisory Committee is embarking on. 

Our Student Services Department provides additional layers through support programs and services for students and staff throughout the District including counselors, psychologists, social workers and other specialized mental health professionals. The Department 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. The Department also supports a variety of community partnerships and activities linked to safety and security.

 

Parent-student-school communication is a key layer to preventing school violence.

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. Please remember and remind your children – If you see something, say something.

Furthermore, parents are the frontline to identifying troubling behaviors in their children. If you have concerns, don't hesitate to call your child's school counselor so we can partner with you and your child to get the help needed to prevent potential escalation. The District also hosts an online incident reporting system here on the District website where anyone can leave information and share observations they feel need to be considered by a school administrator. Anonymous reporting is possible on this system, but the most actionable information allows the District to ask questions of the person with the firsthand information. For highly concerning behavior, the authorities ask that you call 911.

Dealing with these situations can be difficult for grown-ups, let alone for our children. Please use the parent resources that exist on the District website under the Student Services section here to find information about suicide, violence, terrorism, depression, grief, loss, natural disasters, as well as a list of local support services and resources specifically for kids here.

As we work to continuously improve school security, our partnerships with parents, students and emergency authorities will help ensure that PCSD remains a safe and comfortable place for our students to learn and grow.

Health and Safety Council

PCSD has a longstanding Health and Safety Council charged with “identifying, targeting and monitoring health and safety issues in order to provide the safest and healthiest environment at school.” Over the decades it’s been in place, this Council has implemented many safety and security initiatives by way of this charter.

It’s important to know that the Health and Safety Council members are selected annually by their constituency groups or position. This knowledgeable and focused group includes the Director of Student Services who serves as chairperson; the Directors of Communication, Operation, Maintenance and Security, and Transportation; a teacher, parent, an office professional and Town of Pittsford representative; a school nurse; one administrator from each level (elementary, middle and high); a secondary science teacher; and, a BOCES Health and Safety representative.

Emergency Response Plan and Training

The District’s Health and Safety Council is responsible for developing the original emergency response plan following the 1999 Columbine tragedy. Since that time, this Council has also been responsible for annual reviews and ongoing updates to this comprehensive emergency response plan.

These safety procedures are regularly practiced through emergency drills at our schools with the support of the Town and Village of Pittsford, and first responders.

PCSD also seeks out training opportunities with experts in the field of school safety, including the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and Homeland Security. These relationships allow us to continuously make improvements to our procedures and drills and develop new protocols. For example, more than 70 administrators, staff members, parents and Board of Education members received active assault training from the MCSO this past summer. This type of training and connection to the MCSO is invaluable to our collective effort to keep our schools safe.

Ongoing Review of Options for Improvement

Portions of this MCSO training program are currently being rolled out to our schools and others are being reviewed as next steps. The training included concepts such as “Run, Hide, Fight,” provided strategies and examples for classroom safety in the event of an active shooter, and reinforced the message that staying out of harm’s way for the first 4-5 minutes of a school attack drastically increases survival rates. 

The Health and Safety Council recently shared with me the feedback from an open-ended email sent to parents asking for their suggestions, questions and concerns about safety in our schools. The input was welcomed and clearly demonstrated parents’ interest in understanding safety and security protocols and educating themselves on how to identify children needing support. The resources mentioned above on the District website provide a good background, but we will also work toward sharing more detailed information and training with parents on the many related programs we have in place in our schools.

While our work will never be done in this area, we are operating from a strength-based position as we have already incorporated many layers of protection including, but not limited to, social emotional learning, installation of intruder locks, single points of entry, MCSO campus presence, prox card readers, drills, surveillance cameras, line of site reviews / landscape alterations, substitute teacher protocols and more. Moving forward, our Health and Safety Council is assisting with the prioritization of the next actionable steps to continuously enhance our safety.