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Snoqualmie Valley School Safety Update
May 26, 2022
Dear Snoqualmie Valley families, staff, and community,
School safety remains at the forefront of our minds, as our hearts go out to students, families, and staff who are victims of violence on school campuses. We join school districts across the nation with a heightened awareness of the importance of doing everything within our power to keep our students safe.
Creating the safest environment possible on our school campuses is always a top priority for us. The purpose of this message is to share with the community some of the activities, systems, training, and preventative measures in place in the Snoqualmie Valley School District along with some planned enhancements. All of these work in combination to provide students a safe, supportive, and positive school experience.
We take a systemic approach to school safety that is comprised of four major components:
- Social emotional learning, services and supports
- Emergency preparedness, plans and training
- Effective communication and reporting systems
- School facility and system improvements focused on safety and security
Social-Emotional Learning, Services & Supports
The most important aspect of school safety is prevention, and efforts around social emotional development begin at the earliest grade levels. Making sure we know each child and what’s going on in their lives helps us identify students needing extra support and to connect them and their families with services and resources when needed. Our schools also employ a multi-tiered approach – Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) – to teach social skills and behavior expectations. PBIS strategies are embedded in our curriculum and reinforced consistently throughout our schools.
Given the stress and pressures that students face today, our counselors and psychologists help support students. We cannot do this work alone, so we partner with local agencies like Friends of Youth, Sound Health, UW Forefront Suicide Prevention, and Empower Youth Network to increase access for students and families to social/emotional/mental health support.
In addition, we are in the process of adding new social workers, behavior specialists and mental health counselor positions, along with a new associate director of health services, to oversee our expanded mental and physical health support programs. These positions are currently posted on our website (see Job Opportunities) and we’d appreciate any help you can provide in encouraging applicants.
We also participate in a program, funded by King County Dept. of Community and Human Services (DCHS) and based on UW Research, to help identify middle school students who may be struggling, and refer their families to supportive resources, if desired, in a safe and confidential manner. The Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Services (SBIRT) program has helped our district discreetly connect a number of families with mental health and other services in recent years.
Further prevention efforts include training for staff, students, and parents. Our district frequently brings in experts to address a variety of safety-related topics including: Anti-Bullying Campaigns, Kindness Campaigns, Expressing Gratitude, Cyber Safety, Suicide Prevention, Overcoming Adversity, Sexual Assault Prevention, Fentanyl Overdose Prevention, Stop the Bleed (staff training), and Active Shooter Survival. Several of these training sessions and programs were prior to COVID, and the coming school year provides the opportunity to revisit these important topics and to provide renewed training.
Drills and Security Staff
Emergency preparedness efforts in our schools involve ensuring established safety protocols are followed and practiced, based on school safety plans that are created with input from safety experts. We revise and update building emergency response and reunification plans to align with recommended practices on an ongoing basis. (Note: these plans are not made public for security reasons.) All of our schools conduct a variety of required safety drills throughout the year with students and staff.
Our district works closely with local law enforcement and other emergency responders to help assess and respond to threats. We also value on-site support of a dedicated School Resource Officer (SRO) from the Snoqualmie Police department, along with other SVSD security staff at the high school, who also assist other schools with their safety plans. Local law enforcement has also conducted active shooter drills (without students present) to better familiarize their teams with our buildings and to practice their response protocols.
Awareness, Reporting & Communication
One of the most effective steps in keeping a school safe is “see something, say something.” We urge everyone in our school community to report anything that seems “off.” For those who prefer to report something anonymously, we offer a “Safe Schools Alert Tipline” so anyone can submit a safety concern via phone/text at 360-587-4726, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by simply clicking on the “Report a Concern” button located on each of our school and district websites. Please be assured that our schools take EVERY report seriously.
Students are uniquely positioned to be aware of a troubled peer or someone who threatens to harm themself or others. We encourage families to talk about how to report a concern and why reporting is so important. For tips on how to have those conversations as well as address your student’s concerns about school shootings, this resource found on the American Psychology Association website may be helpful. Also, to understand a parent/guardian’s role during an emergency, and how you can best support your school and students during an emergency, please read this SVSD brochure.
We are also constantly reviewing our communications practices and resources to consider ways to streamline emergency notifications. We currently have systems in place to communicate quickly with families via text, automated phone calls, email, social media and our website. If you’re not receiving our communications, please contact your child’s school to make sure your contact information is up-to-date. In addition to electronic tools, between our schools and our district teams, we have emergency radio systems to facilitate real-time communication.
Facility Safety & Security
In recent years, we’ve made significant improvements to school facilities and operations aimed at safety and security, which was a big part of the 2015 Bond. Thanks to this investment, student safety and security was significantly improved in the redesign of the new Mount Si High School and through modifications and enhancements at all our schools.
New visitor management systems were installed to help validate and monitor visitors on campus. New electronic door lock systems were added at all buildings to improve overall building security, monitoring, and provide automated lockdown capabilities. These systems work hand-in-hand with new internal communication systems that engage audio warnings with streaming messages on all the classroom clocks in the event of a lockdown, shelter-in-place or evacuation. Video surveillance cameras added throughout our campuses and school buses provide additional security.
We’ve made additional improvements to help further regulate public access to the buildings. During school hours, all visitors are required to enter the schoolhouse through the main entrance. Our schools lock their front doors during the school day and utilize a system that leverages a doorbell with audio and video capabilities so that office staff can view and speak with a visitor before granting the ability to enter the building. All staff and visitors must display badges. Our visitor management kiosks track who is in the building and we are currently investigating improved software for this system.
Fencing was added to several of our elementary schools to help secure buildings and playgrounds, and we are currently evaluating improvements for schools that need more work in this area. We’ve upgraded our exterior lighting for our schools to improve evening and night security. We are also reviewing practices and systems to make sure our classrooms are secure.
We’ve added new tools that have enhanced student safety and accountability while riding school buses. Our Bus Bulletin notification capabilities allow parents to sign up for notifications by text, call or email when their child’s bus is running at least 10 minutes late or in case of an emergency. Additionally, our SmartTag System has improved our ability to track students on our buses, and notify families of delays or concerns through a free Parent Portal service. Surveillance cameras in and around our buses contribute to the safety of our students and drivers. This includes external stop paddle cameras to help enforce safety laws intended to protect children as they board and depart school buses.
While this is not a comprehensive list, I hope you are reassured by the information provided here that safety is a very high priority for us. However, our work to proactively address safety issues is never done. We learn from the experiences of others and are committed to continuing to update our plans and processes to align with current best practices and studies. We appreciate your support and cooperation as we work together to ensure the safety and security of our schools, in order to do our very best for your students and the staff who work with them each day.
Dr. Lance Gibbon, Superintendent
Snoqualmie Valley School District
For more information and resources, please visit the School Safety information on our district website, located under the Families tab.