In schools today we practice different kinds of drills than in the past. When I was in school, we practiced “bomb” drills, along with the standard earthquake and fire drills.
Now, our teachers and students are learning and practicing what to do if a hostile intruder enters the campus. There are different scenarios depending on the situation and our schools are working with the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office to learn the best approaches to take based on what has been learned in the very unfortunate and senseless mass shooting events across our nation over the last several decades.
In addition to the drills, the district is preparing to increase campus safety measures such as additional fencing, security cameras, universal notification systems to instantly allow staff to communicate with one another during an emergency no matter their location on campus and alert first responders, ensure all bells, alarms, indoor and outdoor speakers and paging systems are working properly.
Measure L bond money is assisting in all of these safety upgrades to ensure we can make our schools and our students as protected as possible.
Further, we are very fortunate to have received a grant for a full time Sheriff Resource Officer (SRO). Just having the officer on campus brings a sense of safety and security.
One purpose of the SRO is to create positive relationships with students. Another is to support students who may be having difficulty in school and to assist school administrators in helping kids stay on track. Perhaps most importantly the SRO assists in keeping our campuses drug and tobacco free, which is vital for student safety.
Another type of safety the district is very concerned about for our students is their social and emotional well being. Through grants and partnerships with Mariposa County Human Services, Behavioral Health, Alliance for Community Transformation and the sheriff’s office, we have been able to put many programs in place to support students’ social emotional needs.
One example is that we now have a full time counselor at every school site. That is a very rare occurrence, especially for a small district like MCUSD.
These counselors have a curriculum that teaches how to be kind, how to deal with emotions, how to with deal with loss, how to handle being bullied, how to not be a bully or what to do if you witness bullying, how to make friends and be a friend. These are just a few example of the lower grade lessons. The lessons are customized for each grade level.
Our teachers and support staff receive anti-bullying training and we have policies in place for reporting, intervening, investigating, resolving and remediating and incidents of bullying or harassment.
MCUSD’s number one priority is the safety and well being of all students. Last year district staff and partners from county agencies held a community forum to provide information about what safety measures are in place and what is planned. Questions and suggestions were taken from the community members who attended and an FAQ document was developed with answers.
A follow up Safety Meeting will be held this Thursday, Nov. 1, at 5:30 p.m. in the District Board Room at 5082 Old Highway North.
The FAQs from the last safety meeting will be revisited and information on updates will be provided to the community.
While driving through town the other day, I saw a sign in someone’s yard that simply said, “Make America kind again.” It made me reflect on my youth when my parents were not afraid to let me go off all day with my friends to play and enjoy the outdoors and then call us all in for dinner.
Our schools didn’t need SROs, fences, security cameras and I don’t ever remember having a counselor for social emotional needs, not to say there wasn’t a need, I don’t know. I do know that our children are growing up in a much different world and we must take measures to protect them from the increased dangers they face daily.
If we each can find a way each and every day to show kindness, care, compassion and love to our students every day, maybe we can make America kind again.
Remember, our children are our future.
Robin Hopper is the superintendent of the Mariposa County Unified School District