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Safe without turning schools into a fortress

January 28, 2013

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In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut, Colville School District Superintendent Michael Cashion and the Colville School Board discussed measures that will be taken to improve security at the district’s schools. That discourse came at the monthly school board meeting on Jan. 23.
The administration in the district has taken a proactive stance rather than a reactive response to the latest school shooting tragedy.
“I don’t know about you, but I don't want my kids going to school in a jail,” board member Sandy Moore told fellow board members and visitors. “Let's not overreact to an emotional issue…let's recognize that kids are safe in schools most of the time.”
Last week, Superintendent Cashion attended a meeting along with 22 other superintendents to discuss increased safety measures in the school. One of the precautionary measures discussed was counseling services for students. The Colville School Board agreed that counseling should be included in any safety precautions.
“Gun violence is a huge threat to kids,” Moore added. “Let's do the appropriate thing to keep them safe from guns.
'”Training kids in already established programs like Character Counts, having mentoring in place, anti-bullying programs, giving kids the training they need to know that there are other ways to solve their problems other than violence, are incredibly important.”

‘Character counts’

The administration in the Colville School District has decided to adopt a counseling program called Character Counts. The program was originally started by Josephson Institute of Ethics in 1992 by a group of experts in ethics and character education. (To learn more about Character Counts visit www.charctercounts.org).
This program trains students in the six steps of character development. The school will be a training center for Character Counts, according to Superintendent Cashion.
In March, a one-day training session that can host up to 50 people will be held. The session will last from four to six hours.
This training day is a preliminary step so that Colville schools can officially become that training center for the program, Cashion said.
“This character education piece is huge,” Cashion said. “I will be meeting with principals in March. At that time, we will go over their staffing, see what [funds] the state allows them to have, where they are going to put [these funds], if they are going to put it into a counselor, because it is imperative that we cover all our bases on this thing.”
But physical as well as mental precautions have been adopted by the administration. Since the killer at Sandy Hook entered the elementary building through a glass panel near the office, all of the glass panels in Colville school buildings will be gridded off. There will also be key swipes installed at the doors and more video cameras will be added to the junior high school building. In addition, local law enforcement will have the ability to access a school camera from their patrol vehicles.
“We are putting capabilities in every police car so that they can pull up a visual of the school at any time,” explained Superintendent Cashion.
Even though some teachers have offered to carry firearms and superintendent Cashion was approached by local residents offering to train school staff in the use of firearms, the superintendent said that the district has chosen to utilize local law enforcement to help protect district schools.
Presently, local law enforcement is patrolling Colville schools seven-and-a-half hours a day, four days a week. Since the Sandy Hook massacre, the Colville School District has given 22 keys out to law enforcement.
According to Cashion, 11 of the keys have been given to city of Colville officers and 11 more have been given to the “watch captions” of the Stevens County Sheriff’s Department like Sheriff Kendle Allen and Undersheriff Sheriff Webb.
On Feb. 7 and 8, multiple law enforcement agencies will conduct mock drills at Colville High School and at Fort Colville School. The drills will start on Saturday at Fort Colville and finish on Sunday at the high school.
As far as financing the new safety precautions and procedures, funds are tight, according to Superintendent Cashion. He explained that school administration has initiated an electronic survey that will be sent to parents asking them if they would like to pass a one-time levy to the tune of $180,000. Cashion said that this levy would speed up the installation of all these precautions.

*Read the full story in this week's hard copt edition of the S-E.

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