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Safety letter for BC families from Superintendent Monroe

Filed in Archive, District, District News by on March 20, 2018

The following letter was emailed to all families districtwide on March 20, 2018.

Dear BC family:

Since the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month, I have fielded many different questions regarding safety and security in the Bethlehem Central School District. I want to assure you that these issues are always at the forefront of the decisions we make here in Bethlehem. We continuously seek out ways to better safeguard the health and well-being of our students and staff, learning from our own experiences and from those of others, while honing our practices and reviewing areas for improvement.

Below I am sharing information about health and safety measures currently in place and initiatives that are being explored to strengthen our school community.

Building safety

Bethlehem has both a comprehensive district safety plan and building-level safety plans for each of our schools. The district partners with the Bethlehem Police Department and other law enforcement agencies in developing the safety plans, which are reviewed and updated annually. Staff are trained on how to respond in the event of an emergency and drills are practiced throughout the school year. Learn more about our routine drills here.

During the school day, all of our schools have a single point of entry that is locked. Visitors must use an intercom to state their name and purpose of the visit to gain entry. They also must sign in with the main office at the elementary schools and middle school, and with the security desk at the high school. Video cameras are used on school grounds, in school buildings and on district buses. All seven schools have external security cameras and an extensive network of security cameras was added inside the high school and at the middle school three years ago. Additional cameras are scheduled to be added at all of our schools as part of the $32 million bond project approved by voters in 2016. The plans for camera installation and all of our capital improvements are currently under review by the State Education Department.

Police are school partners

The middle school and the high school are staffed by full-time School Resource Officers who are members of the Bethlehem Police Department. These officers, Detective Mike Whiteley at BCMS and Detective Chad Rice at BCHS, are integral members of our school community, known to staff and students alike. Detective Ken Beck also works in the elementary schools.

On March 14, our SROs and other members of the Bethlehem Police Department provided security for students during the 17-minute student-led walkouts at the middle school and high school which served as tributes to the victims in Parkland and as opportunities for students to voice their concerns about school safety issues nationwide. To ensure the safety of students and to encourage them to remain on campus that day, our administrators worked with student organizers to plan the event. These coordinated efforts helped to make these events safe, peaceful demonstrations.

The resource officers were also among several representatives from the Bethlehem Police Department who were part of a comprehensive safety meeting on Thursday, March 15. My entire administrative team — including all building principals, department administrators and our counseling supervisor — attended this meeting.

Among the topics discussed were building security, training for staff, communications, vetting procedures for school volunteers, and providing a tool for students and the community to report suspicious behavior that could threaten school safety.

See something, say something

An anonymous tip line is now available, coordinated and staffed by the Bethlehem Police Department, providing an important resource for students and families in the community. The “see something, say something” confidential tip line number is 518-439-1503. The tip line provides a way to report someone who may be exhibiting signs of dangerous behavior, to themselves or to others.

A student’s right to feel safe at school is paramount. While we always encourage students who have safety concerns or are worried about themselves or someone they know to talk directly with an administrator or counselor, we understand that sometimes these concerns may take place outside the school day or when time is of the essence. This confidential tip line provides an additional and welcome resource for students and families alike.

Student mental health resources

In the Bethlehem Central Schools, we value the education and well-being of the whole child. Our Coordinated Health Team provides comprehensive counseling services to our students that emphasize mental health. We have restructured our K-12 counseling program to offer these services in all of our buildings. We currently have several prevention and intervention services in our schools that support the mental, behavioral and social-emotional health of students and help promote success in the learning process with psychological, social and educational support. Learn more about the BC Coordinated Health Team.

Safety precautions ahead

To enhance training for faculty and staff, we will be adding a regular schedule of “table-top” exercises that include key district personnel and first responders, including police and fire, who take part in simulated crisis scenarios. These exercises help us sharpen our response procedures and carefully assess existing plans.

To provide an additional layer of safety at the entrances to our buildings, we are also exploring implementing a new access system for use by visitors at all buildings during the school day. With this system, visitors would be required to present a valid driver’s license, government-issued ID or passport in order to enter. Information would be checked against a state database in real-time to identify potential sex-offender registry matches.

My administrative team is gathering information to determine the logistics of installing such a system districtwide.

A scan entry would also provide the district with a ready resource to check school volunteers against the sex offender registry. Currently, the district requires fingerprinting for volunteers when we are aware these volunteers will be working regularly with students or without staff supervision. This includes all coaches, who are required to be fingerprinted and whose appointments are subject to board approval.

Reaching you in an emergency

To ensure that we can reach you in the event of an emergency, we are now using the mass notification system School Messenger. It is being used to reach parents, via email, with information related to school closings and delays as well as other timely information from our schools. Unlike School News Notifier (SNN), which parents must opt into, School Messenger uses the parent contact information in Aspen that is provided by families. To review your contact information and make sure it is correct, please visit the Aspen Parent Portal.

Beginning April 3, we will expand the use of School Messenger to include text messaging for parents in the event of a school emergency, or weather-related school closures or delays. The system also provides us with the capability to send automated voice calls to parents as well. You will be hearing more about School Messenger, and the new text and voice features, in the coming weeks. Before then, be sure review your contact information in Aspen and if you need to update your information, please contact our District Registrar Melissa Haas at mhaas@bethlehemschools.org or at 518-439-2442.

If you have questions about any of the issues outlined above, or if I can be of any assistance to you in any manner, please feel free to reach out to me at jmonroe@bethlehemschools.org or at 518-439-7098.

As always, thank you for your continued support of the Bethlehem Central School District.

Sincerely,

Jody Monroe
Superintendent of Schools