As the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems design new security plans — and enhance existing ones — to protect our community’s most precious resource, the question most asked by parents …
As the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems design new security plans — and enhance existing ones — to protect our community’s most precious resource, the question most asked by parents is naturally, “Can I feel good about my child’s safety?”
Answers from Cleveland City Schools’ perspective will come Tuesday in a Community Meeting on School Safety. It gets underway at 6 p.m. in the Cleveland High School Commons (cafeteria).
The gathering is open to the public.
A panel of investors in our youth, including Cleveland City Schools Director Dr. Russell Dyer, will speak. In addition, they will answer questions that have been submitted via an online form that is available at www.ClevelandSchools.org.
Panelists will include:
• Dawn Robinson, chair of the Cleveland Board of Education;
• Mark Gibson, chief of the Cleveland Police Department;
• Doug Moore, director of student services for the school system;
• Joy Hudson, director of special populations for the school system;
• Hal Taylor, director of operations for the school system;
• Kellye Bender, supervisor of elementary and counseling for the school system;
• Scotty Hernandez, school safety specialist for the school system;
• Eric Phillips, teacher at Cleveland High School; and
• Sgt. Bobby Ruth, Cleveland Police Department.
These types of community meetings — open, honest and to the point — are critical for the physical and emotional wellbeing of students and parents. They are not intended to show the school system’s full hand in vivid detail on how student, teacher and staff safety is being approached. Such divulged information could become counter-productive in the short- and long-term.
But they are intended to assure Cleveland and Bradley County families that safety measures are in place. But most importantly, existing procedures are being reviewed and re-evaluated, and in some cases enhanced.
Bradley County Schools is expected to host similar types of community meetings at their facilities.
Since the shooting tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that took the lives of 17 students and adults, leaders in schools and communities nationwide have been on edge. It is a safe assumption that all are asking themselves the same question, “Are we doing enough, and if not, what else should we be doing?”
In cases like these, self-assessment is critical. But its relevance is made more so when outsiders are involved: Law enforcement, local government and mental health professionals, among others.
Of the latter, we like a comment made by Dyer in a story published on the front page of our March 8 edition. It referred to not only addressing the physical needs of safety, but also proactively building emotional bonds.
“School safety is not all about putting locks on buildings,” Dyer told staff writer Christy Armstrong. “It’s about getting to know our students.”
The city school system does it through an initiative called Capturing Kids’ Hearts. It’s a training program that helps teachers “… build positive relationships with students and open lines of communication.”
Like his counterparts in Bradley County Schools, Dyer recognizes the need to hold these public discussions. Parents fear for the safety of their children.
“A lot of people have questions about school safety right now,” he said. “That is understandable, given events like the one in [Parkland] Florida. I think people want reassurance that we have a plan in place and that we are practicing what we preach.”
The city school system is to be commended for orchestrating Tuesday evening’s public event, and for involving professionals in law enforcement and counseling who have a vested interest in student safety.
The same can be said for our county schools leaders when similar community meetings are held on behalf of their parents and families.
Here’s a heartfelt bit of irony involving Tuesday’s public event. Students are playing a key role in bringing it to parents and other loved ones who cannot attend. They’re doing it through CHSLive, the high school’s award-winning broadcast journalism program that will air the gathering online.
The student-run broadcast can be viewed at www.CHSLive.com.
In today’s devolving society, safety can no longer be taken for granted. It is more than just a word. It is a commitment, one that requires patience, cooperation, funds and a broad community mindset.
The good old days of reading, writing and arithmetic in our schools are becoming a distant memory. Today, a like amount of attention must be given to protecting those who teach it, and to those who learn it.
We urge the public to attend Tuesday night’s forum.
For those who cannot, we recommend CHSLive. It’s a chance to see kids at their best.
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