Friday, 24 May 2024

McQueen: Students’ safety is first

Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – On Monday, with school buses already en route to pick up students, the Kelseyville Unified School District Office received information that a student had made a threat against Mt. Vista Middle School.

District staff immediately called the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, rerouted buses to a safe location, and locked down all district schools.

The sheriff’s deputy quickly detained the student before the student boarded the school bus to go to school.

Although the student made a verbal threat, the student had no weapon or means to carry out that threat; however, in light of all the shootings that have taken place, including the one last week in Southern California, I responded with an abundance of caution.

Once the sheriff gave me the all-clear sign, I released students to go back to school.

In this day and age, we must take every threat seriously. Even though there have only been five threats like this in the 12 years I’ve been superintendent and all of them turned out to be bluster, I’d still rather overreact and keep everyone safe than assume a threat is idle talk from a student looking for attention.

Any time we hear of a threat of violence, no matter how small, we call the Lake County Sheriff’s Office immediately to investigate.

Each school has a safety plan with detailed instructions on how to manage various threats, including school shooters and intruders.

At the beginning of every school year, LCSO deputies teach our staff members what to do in the event of an active shooter situation.

The rules are to run, hide and fight – in that order. This is what we teach students during regular drills throughout the school year.

A retired police chief I know said this, “If you can run from danger, run. If you can’t run or if running puts you in harm’s way, hide: lock and/or barricade the door, close the blinds, and be as quiet as possible while calling 911 to let law enforcement know where you are. If you can’t hide, your last option is to fight back … throw items, yell and scream, work with each other as a team and act as aggressively as possible. I promise that first responders will be running to help you, so keep fighting until we get there. Your chance of survival is proven to be much greater if you take action.”

None of us wants to imagine our children in an active shooter situation. It’s terrifying. But since this is the world we live in, it’s up to us to do everything we can to keep them safe, which includes preparing them for a crisis.

As parents, it’s hard not to let our emotions overrule our more measured responses. Our hearts tell us to rush to the school and wrap our arms around our children and usher them away from danger.

But that could actually put children in more danger. If parents came to school and started running all over campus looking for their kids, law enforcement officers might not be able to identify a shooter, or worse, people could get caught in the crossfire.

As hard as it is, it’s best to trust that law enforcement officers in partnership with trained Kelseyville Unified staff will follow best practices to keep our kids safe.

We know that sheriff’s deputies are experts at handling these situations and we follow their recommendations. I am confident local deputies will not rest until they are 100 percent satisfied that a threat no longer exists before they allow students back on campus, especially when you consider that some of those deputies are also Kelseyville Unified parents.

During Monday’s event, I know some parents wanted more information more quickly and I will try to provide more if we are faced with a similar situation in the future, but my first priority will always be to safeguard students.

Along those lines, please be aware that for us to reach parents, we must have current emergency contact information. If you did not update your personal information at the beginning of the school year via the online registration process, or if your information has recently changed, please contact your school site to update it.

Since I am not only a superintendent, but also a parent (and a grandparent), I know that raising children is the hardest job in the world and these are especially tough times. Here are some tips to help you care for your child’s physical and emotional well-being.

1. Check in with your student to ascertain their level of concern about school shootings. Here’s a great article to guide your conversation: .

2. With young kids who are feeling insecure, it may help to remind them that the adults they are familiar with on campus--teachers, administrators and other school employees--are trained to keep them safe.

3. Let your students know that if they hear information about a potential threat, they should share it, either with you or with an adult they trust at school. It could save lives.

Let’s work together to keep kids safe.

Dave McQueen is superintendent of Kelseyville Unified School District.

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