District works toward bolstering crisis response


By Daniel Davidson, Editor-in-Chief

Following last year’s firearm incidents at both high schools and the recent false alarm at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, district administration have worked to incorporate security and safety concerns in their new strategic plan.

Part of that process involved two community conversations and student surveys to determine how to improve safety and student-faculty relationships. At the Nov. 25 board meeting, Superintendent Anthony Lewis shared data collected from over 350 individuals on questions such as “Do you feel safe at school?”.

“Just one student that doesn’t feel safe is a problem,” Lewis said. “If I’m not feeling safe, I could care less about your reading passage…”

When high school students were asked in their classes to name teachers they trusted, the most named teachers at each high school were brought together to share relationship-building strategies with Lewis. In an effort to make students feel like they have a trusted adult to talk to, Lewis recorded these conversations to serve as a blueprint for staff.

“One student wrote that the only time he didn’t want to come to class was when he didn’t do the reading because he didn’t want to let me down,” said Lawrence High English teacher Melissa Johnson during that meeting. “If they don’t know you or care about you then they don’t feel like that.”

Director of operations for the district, Ron May, presented other actions being taken by the district to bolster safety.

According to May, the district’s PowerSchool team is still working on getting mass-texting capabilities to alert students in the case of a crisis, especially if they are off-campus.

Along with ALICE training that was initiated last year, substitutes are now being formally trained in crisis procedures. Digital resources for reporting bullying or security concerns, as well as educational resources, have been made available online. Other goals include improving intercom systems, electronic door locks and more accurate signage and maps of the school.

May said security measures such as clear backpacks and metal detectors were considered. However, those measures can be polarizing and expensive to implement.

“What might make me feel safe,” May said, “Might make you feel unsafe.”