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Safety First

By MaryEllen Elia, Superintendent

The recent incidents of school violence around the country, coupled with local incidents near some of our schools, have brought attention again to the need for all of us to be prepared. Since 1997, we have had a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) that guides administrators and school staff in every conceivable crisis situation.

A school safety roundtable involving the school district’s first responders, and local, state and federal law enforcement is scheduled to review and evaluate the plan. The CEMP was developed in consultation with a wide range of law enforcement agencies, and we include them every time it is updated. If they recommend changes, we will make them.

The CEMP consists of guidelines for addressing emergency situations ranging from bullying to natural disasters to terrorism. Our principals receive training from school security officers and they conduct drills with school staff. We do all of this to make students, staff and schools safe.

I can’t reveal to you most of what is contained in the two three-ring binders. However, there are some things you need to know about how we handle emergency situations and what you can do to ensure students are safe and schools run smoothly.

We’ve recently implemented modified and full lockdown procedures at schools in the district. The two procedures are similar in some ways, but differ in others. The main difference is that with modified lockdown students are allowed limited movement within the school. With full lockdown there is no movement outside of the classrooms.

Another difference relates to access. When we implement modified lockdown procedures we lock the doors but allow controlled access. You must show identification to enter the school or if you want us to release your child to you. During a full lockdown, we will not allow anyone to enter or leave.

The best thing parents can do in these situations is stay home or at work, monitor local news, and only call the school if it’s absolutely necessary. If an incident presents possible imminent danger, your presence could be distracting, may delay emergency responders, and could possibly put you in danger.

If you can’t reach anyone at the school, you can call the Citizen’s Information Line, at 813-272-4974. Please also remember that students are not prohibited from using cellular phones in an emergency situation. However, I would discourage their use because some emergencies are of a nature that cell phone usage could exacerbate the situation.

My purpose for writing about our safety plans is to let parents know that we all share the same priority, and that is to keep all students safe. Schools are not jails, but we have to maintain a certain amount of control in order to limit crisis incidents to outside the schools’ perimeters. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding during these situations, and please know that we are committed to keeping our safety plans up-to-date and parents informed.

Other related SAFETY links: http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/portals/parents.asp?subcat=Safety

Hillsborough County Public Schools, Florida USA > Communications

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