Monday, February 13, 2017

Student Safety Our Top Priority

Superintendent Dr. Karen Z. Schulte

The School District of Janesville (SDJ) is the tenth largest district in Wisconsin (by enrollment) and one of the largest employers in Janesville and Rock County. Every day, thousands of people enter our buildings, either to attend school, to work, or to pick up their children. Without question, we have an obligation to make sure all of our students, employees, and visitors are safe when they come to our facilities. Due to a recent “Our Views” in the Gazette concerning the district’s response to a bomb threat, there may be some questions about our process and our commitment to safety. It is important to know that the school district is a partner and integral member of the greater Janesville community, and we take very seriously our role in keeping our students, schools, and community safe.

With any safety threat that presents to our schools, the school or district administrators immediately contact the Janesville Police Department. Each safety threat is unique, and must be evaluated and assessed. If that safety concern is a bomb threat, the law enforcement and safety hazard preparedness protocols (including those from the Department of Homeland Security) state that they should be treated as genuine and investigated. To be very clear, a safety threat assessment is not done by school district officials alone, but conducted with the full collaboration of local law enforcement. The district appreciates the dedication and cooperation the Janesville Police Department provides us in these matters.

Despite what may be portrayed in national media, violent acts such as bombings or shootings remain relatively rare, but sadly, they do occur. That is why all schools in Wisconsin have response plans and practice their drills. Even if violent events are not common, they have happened in our state. We only need to look at Weston High School in Cazenovia, Wisconsin where, on September 29, 2006, a student shot and killed the school principal. We cannot afford to be complacent on any threat to students and schools.

We also know that our district and community are not alone in ensuring the safety of our students. We must rely on parents and their vital role in the education and safety of their children. We do our best to provide parents with the information necessary for them to make informed decisions for their family, and that is why we use various tools to communicate with parents. In our communication to parents on January 24, it was reported that the SDJ’s message indicated it was OK for students to miss class if they didn’t feel safe. We want to be very clear—there was no “OK to miss class” message. Parents were notified of the situation and the procedures that would be in place the following morning. Ultimately, it is the parents’ decision to keep a child home or to send them to school.

The business of conducting school is complicated, and we rely heavily on parents, and our community partners including the Janesville Police, Janesville Firefighters, Emergency Responders, and many more. Parents are the first and most important teachers of their children and play an essential role in educating and keeping their children safe. The SDJ remains a dedicated partner in this effort, and we remind everyone of the P3 mobile phone app students, parents, or others may use to submit anonymous tips or report safety concerns. Student and school safety is no laughing matter, and I want you to know that the School District of Janesville will continue to work with everyone in the community to make it a safer place to live, work, and play.

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