Last spring, our country reeled from yet another horrific incident in a school. The sadness and anger I felt that day weighed heavily for a long time. Our children deserve to feel totally and utterly safe and secure at school and it is our job to continually review our safety measures and improve them as necessary.
I was elated when Michigan legislation expanded the use of Sinking Fund dollars to include safety and security, because it puts a few items closer into our reach financially. When our community generously approved the Sinking Fund replacement in May 2018, I quickly pulled together my team.
Together, we formulated questions that were embedded in the Spring 2018 Community Survey. We asked stakeholders to prioritize a list of items we had heard frequently requested across the district. In the meantime, I convened a safety and security review team, comprised of staff from various departments across the district.
Over the summer, we met to review the data from the spring survey. With approximately a dozen of us seated around a table, we dove into every detail of the survey responses. We looked at the feedback as a whole, broke it out by building, by grade, and sought to deeply understand the priority order placed on each item.
Our team met several times and put together a comprehensive plan to bring forward some significant safety and security enhancements. Over the next few months, we will be:
- Obtaining quotes and installation timelines to bring the BluePoint emergency/early warning system to every school. BHHS was the first to pilot the system and we have learned from that pilot that the system has real value in a school building. The system can be triggered by anyone, utilizing blue pull stations (similar to fire pull stations) throughout the building. Once triggered, the system notifies building occupants visually and plays an auditory warning. This enables occupants to safely engage in the “Run, Hide, Fight” method we train throughout our schools. It offers more time in a severely time-sensitive situation and simultaneously notifies police, by contacting police dispatch. Police arrive quicker and building occupants are notified sooner. These are two critical items in an active shooter situation.
- Replacing our current camera/door buzzer systems. While we were one of the first districts in Oakland County to have such systems, it’s time for an upgrade. Camera quality has improved and we know we will benefit from having the latest systems installed. We will likely simultaneously tweak our school visitor process and you can expect to hear more on that in the coming weeks and months.
- Possibly installing safety film on key selected glass, depending on the outcome of a Michigan State Police grant we recently applied for. The safety film isn’t “bulletproof”, but it is impact resistant. This film greatly slows down an attacker, which gives police precious minutes to respond and building occupants time to deploy the “Run, Hide, Fight” method. To see a video that illustrates this time difference, visit: https://youtu.be/96x2tO9Xuxw.
- Installing cameras on all buses. Cameras are a vital deterrent when it comes to actions of bullying. They also are beneficial for forensic evidence in any type of dispute or report of an issue.
- Offering the ability for students at BHHS to receive the BluePoint text alert notifications. We are working with the vendor now to explore that option and are confident we can offer this option later this school year.
- Ensuring we have standardization in our building lock and unlock times and our basic arrival/departure procedures.
- Ensuring “refresher” training for all staff to reinforce safety practices and protocols.
- Refreshing training with all staff. Active shooter training has already taken place at the high school, with ongoing team-by-team staff follow-up training. BHHS staff are well versed in their plan for the area(s) in which they specifically teach. The next step will be for the staff to review these plans with their students.
- Migrating to a color/symbol system for buses to provide bus route clarity for students. At the end of each school day, we tend to have announcements that indicate bus changes for students (example: “Bus 22 is now bus 49”) and that will be replaced by a color/symbol system so the bus never changes for the child, but can be replaced if there’s a mechanical failure or other issue. These identification symbols are placed on the front of the bus, in a very visible location, and often reinforced with a backpack tag or other piece of identification that stays with the child throughout the year, reminding them of their bus each day.
With so many plans in the works regarding safety and security, it’s easy to get lost in the details. However, it’s important to note that we are moving forward in continuously reviewing and improving our safety and security. It’s also important to note that we could not have done any of this work without the incredibly valuable feedback you provided on the community survey last spring.
With so many options on the market, we could easily have accidentally put in place a safety tool you were not in favor of us using or skipped something you felt passionate about. Sharing your ideas and priorities with us helped us prioritize our work accordingly.
Thank you for your involvement in this topic. Safety and security is truly a community issue and a community effort. We appreciate your ongoing partnership in this area!
- Bloomfield Forward