Boyle schools using committee to create safety protocol, update procedures 

Planning for the unthinkable 

Just over a month after the latest school shooting in the country, area schools are taking steps to reevaluate and update their own plans to keep students safe.

Earlier in March, Boyle County Emergency Management Director Mike Wilder hosted a discussion with the Kentucky State Police regarding the active shooter drills they provide to schools for free. In the last few weeks, the Danville Board of Education discussed it during their meetings.

Boyle County Superintendent Mike LaFavers said they, too, are taking steps to ensure students are safe, but they are working to open “channels of communication,” to ensure everyone has a chance to voice their opinions and ideas on the matter.

“When people become concerned about something, what my experience has been, they want to have channels of communication. They want to hear from leaders, but they also want their voice to be heard,” he said on Tuesday, at the district’s central office.

To make sure those channels are working, LaFavers said they started with school councils.

“We explained to our student body at large about representative democracy, because that’s how we function as a society, and their student council is the representative democracy for the kids in the school,” he said.

Additionally, he and Assistant Superintendent Chris Holderman opened up direct communication with middle and high school students, hosting days where the kids could come and speak to the two if they had concerns about safety.

“Virtually, every student that wanted to do it, we brought them in,” LaFavers said. They had about 60 high school students and 40 middle school students participate, he said.

LaFavers said they had also met with teachers and classified employees at all of the schools and met with city and county officials, including law enforcement, the county attorney, magistrates and Wilder.

“The last six weeks have been a lot about listening and getting key feedback from stakeholders … We’ve been listening. More so than talking, Chris and I, we’ve been listening. Letting people tell us what they’re thinking,” LaFavers said. “A lot of it is really starting to line up. It’s been very interesting to listen to how that happens. We haven’t been directing it that much. It’s been completely listening to what people — their fears, their goals for the community and strategies for our schools.”

LaFavers said a committee of about 20 district staff and community members are also working through these ideas, doing research on different aspects of school safety and more. The committee includes people like the district’s School Resource Office Ricky Sellers and, most recently, Wilder has joined the team.

“That committee has been considering all the feedback we’ve been getting from students, from staff and from community leaders,” LaFavers said.

The committee, he said, had been broken into subcommittees where they examined things such as mental health, supervision, safety, protocols and security strategies. The committee has been visiting places and checking the schools, LaFavers said.

He said they have also stayed in contact with the Kentucky Center for School Safety regarding all of this and plan to reach out to the Department of Homeland Security to review the buildings. LaFavers said they might also take advantage of the Kentucky State Police’s offer to review the schools for weaknesses.

In a few months, likely sometime in May, the committee will create a strategic plan, he said. Once that has been drafted, a series of community forums will be held, to get public feedback. It will also go before the board for feedback and, ultimately, approval.

“It’s a living, breathing document,” LaFavers said, explaining that it can be changed along the way.

The schools are planning professional development days for the summer, he said, to go over school safety.

He said anyone with ideas regarding is encouraged to come to himself or Holderman to talk about it.

“You can’t get too many voices. We want everyone to know, ‘We’re listening to you.’ We’ve got an open door policy and we want to listen to you right now,” LaFavers said. “All of us together will make our schools safer.”

At this time, they haven’t settled on any specific trainings, he said, and said he couldn’t say yet if they will have active shooter trainings with staff.

LaFavers said he believes they will have a “good” strategic plan when the committee is finished.

Holderman said the district has always had some things in place and has worked to maintain relationships with local emergency agencies.

“We can always improve,” Holderman said. “We are continue to work with (emergency officials) and we are listening more. It’s a changing environment that we’re in right now.

“You feel like you’ve done this for so long, but we don’t know everything, so you have to depend on other people.”

Holderman said it’s important to remember that safety is an ever-changing process, and being able to “change and improve” is part of school safety.

He shared that the district has an online “tip line,” which is set up through the Kentucky Center for School Safety. It is called S.T.O.P., which stands for Safety Tipline, Online Prevention.

“It’s been very beneficial for our kids,” Holderman said, explaining that students have direct access from their ChromeBooks to submit something. It can be done anonymously, if they choose.

The submission is sent via email to Holderman and District Health Coordinator Pam Tamme. Holderman said there have been a few the district has had to “act on right away.”

LaFavers said it’s important to note that the schools are “very safe.”

“I want community members to have confidence in that … This is a very safe school system,” he said.

But, he said that doesn’t mean they can become lazy about safety.

“In addition to that, you should prepare for any possible situation. And you shouldn’t become so relaxed in the idea that you’re safe that you’re not thinking that it could happen here,” LaFavers said. “A lot of what we’re doing is preparing for worst-case scenarios that we don’t expect to happen here … What we know is, it could, it could happen anywhere.”

SO YOU KNOW

The S.T.O.P. Tippling to report bullying, violence or other kinds of risky behaviors can be found at https://bit.ly/2ulNbs8. It can also be accessed by visiting the district’s website at boyle.kyschools.us, clicking on the “Student” tab and selecting “Stop Tipline” from the drop-down menu.