(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Wednesday’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida has left 17 students dead and parents across the country concerned for the safety of their children.
St. Joseph School District Director of Student Services Solon Haynes said while the district has taken precautions to insure student safety, schools have to be prepared at all times.
“I don’t think you can say it won’t happen anywhere. I’m sure the schools where this has happened may have thought that, but you always have to be prepared, you always have to do your training, you always have to be aware,” Haynes said.
The district has taken several precautions to avoid harm coming to students and faculty, including the use of school resource officers.
The district has assigned a school resource officer at every high school and middle school; a touring officer to attend area elementary schools; a full-time officer at the Webster alternative school; and a Sheriff's Deputy at Bessie Ellison Elementary. All resource officers have been trained to identify threatening behavior in students and defuse violent situations. The resource officers also play a big role in training teachers throughout the district.
“Every year before the start of school, we have our school resource officers, our police officers, train all our staff members on intruder training and what to do in case we were to have an intruder in the building,” Haynes said.
Every teacher in the school district is required to attend annual intruder safety training with the resource officers. Each school is required by the district to participate in intruder drills with students from every grade level twice a year. Haynes said
a student is never too young to start learning about safety.
“I think we have to have the conversation as young as Kindergarten, because they are in our schools and they need to know what to do in case they hear that there is an intruder in the building,” Haynes said.
Haynes said schools have taken physical precautions as well, including the installation of secondary cable locks on all classroom doors and security systems at every school.
As the number of school shootings and gun related violence increases across the country, many medical professionals and counselors like Andrew Fisher are questioning the motive behind these deadly attacks.
“From what I’ve been able to see in the research, there has always been a case of bullying. There is a separation between the individuals who actually perpetrate and become the shooters,” Fisher said. “Often time the people who do cause the shootings, they’re very separated. They’re always very reserved and they don’t necessarily always find a way to express their frustrations.”
Fisher said a number of factors can contribute to outbursts of violence, but most cases stem from issues of emotional, physical or sexual violence in the individual's past.
But uncovering those issues can be difficult and a lack of mental health resources in the community could be a leading cause of frustration and extreme acts of violence in the community and in schools.
“In the community, unfortunately there’s not a lot of resources. Let’s use St. Joseph for example, they have Family Guidance. Great individuals work there, they put their blood, sweat and tears into it, but getting in is not necessarily very easy to get into,” Fisher said.
While the school district plans to cut approximately $8.3 million from next year's budget, Haynes said the district will not be making any cuts to the safety resources.
Moving forward, Haynes is encouraging students and parents to speak up if they notice suspicious or threatening behavior.
“Our students, our parents, our community has to be aware that if there is anything put out on social media that is any type of threat to a building or school, or someone overhears a comment, that they bring it to the attention of the school law enforcement immediately so we can look into any incidents,” Haynes said.
School officials are encouraging anyone who notices bullying or threats of violence on school grounds or social media to report it to the Missouri School Violence Hotline at 1-866-748-7047.