Guest Opinions

Policies must be in place

School safety should be the No. 1 priority on every educator’s and parent’s mind. Only if students feel secure in their environment can they put their attention wholly to the job of learning. In the 29 years that I taught school I felt safe, for the most part, and felt the students were safe, too.

However, there were times when I had to remove a student from my classroom because of behavior that was potentially a safety concern to other students. As I look back on each of the situations, it is somewhat troubling to me now because we live in a different world where students do bring guns or weapons to school with more frequency.

In some of the situations where students needed to be removed from my class, an administrator was not readily available to help. I remember one time when I had to leave the class to get help — leaving the threatening student in the class while I sought medical attention for an injured child. I know I didn’t follow the right protocol, which leads me to my concern.

Each school needs to have a policy concerning students who need to be removed because of weapons or safety concerns. I’m sure my school district had such a policy. We just didn’t practice or talk much about the steps to take. I didn’t just click into the proper procedure routinely as I would have for other evacuation drills.

It seems a little ironic to me that schools are required by law to have monthly fire drills. I’ve never been at a school that had a fire. I’m not against having the drills, but I have had many opportunities to remove students from class because of safety or behavior issues, and we don’t practice these procedures much.

It seems to me that administrators and staff should put as much or more time into setting up safety procedures for classroom situations and have the staff practice these so teachers can all be better prepared should a student cause a threat to a class.

There is not a procedure for every event that may occur, but the better prepared teachers and school staff are, the safer schools will be for most situations.

After being a part of the Community Conversation on school safety and listening to the administrator from Richland High describe the measures his district has put into place since the student brought a gun to school in November, I think all the districts in the Tri-Cities should put their heads together and share strategies. Most importantly, practice the strategies before an event takes place.

Unfortunately, in a society today with 24/7 media coverage, we are all bombarded with the details of gruesome killing sprees.

We live in a great community and a very safe one. But to feel like it couldn’t happen at your school would be doing a great disservice to the students we have been entrusted with.

* Betsy Sivula taught in the Kennewick School District for 29 years.