Should HSE Flip Start Times?

The following are slides presented to the HSE School board on January 15, 2020 regarding the idea of flipping start times of the various schools in the district.

The data was collected via comments on the HSE website between November 20th, 2019 and December 20th. There were 1840 total comments, which were read and compiled by the HSE Administration team.

1

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

 

5

# # #

Here is a link to the 3-tier busing proposal as well. The link on BoardDocs uses spaces, so it doesn’t always work. This is a temporary link from my site (here). At some point I might remove it.

http://jones123.com/tmp/Proposed3Tier.pdf

Discipline By The State Numbers: HSE Schools

It’s always interesting to stumble upon new data related to our local schools. I was shown data on “school environments.” More specifically, I reviewed data summarizing disciplinary actions with schools and school districts. This data is available on the Indiana Department of Education (DOE) web site. On this site, you can find information on Indiana school districts and achievements, as well as on the data I mention here regarding school environments.

You can visit the site for the details. What drove me to this site was the promise of data on discipline. My understanding is that this is based on data reported to the state by the school districts. What also lead me to this site was a discussion on the disparity of discipline within schools in Indiana.

Of course, the starting point to look into this is knowing the diversity of HSE Schools. The DOE site presents the following data:



Clearly, HSE Schools are predominately White (72.6%) with most people being economically “stable” (84.3%).

Where then do disciplinary problems occur?

The following chart from the DOE site shows that there were 1,384 safety and disciplinary issues reported in 2017-18 for the HSE School district. This is the most recent data in the DOE system. This is broken out between suspensions and expulsions:


Not surprising, all of the HSE district numbers are lower than the state averages. The biggest area for HSE is for In School Suspensions. If you dig into the In School Suspensions data, you’ll quickly see that while Whites are in the majority of the student body, they are not the majority in the In School Suspensions. Rather, Black/African-American and Multiracial both have more disciplinary issues:


If you look at the Out of School Disciplinary numbers, then not only is it Black/African-American and Multiracial groups that have more disciplinary actions than Whites, but Hispanics also have more cases:

The specific details of these disciplinary actions are not a part of the data I found. While no conclusions can be drawn from this data along, it is easy to infer from the data that a substantially higher percentage of non-White students are likely to face disciplinary action than White students within the district.

The Out of School suspensions within IPS showed the ration of Black/African-American to White as 3 to 1, which is similar to HSE Schools. While this might seem to indicate a consistency, the ration of Black/African-Americans to Whites at IPS is 2 to 1 versus HSE’s 1 to 10. That disparity makes this a topic that should be looked into deeper.

A final note on numbers…

As mentioned, HSE had 1,384 issues reported. While this might seem like a lot, if you look at the entire state of Indiana, the number of issues reported was 223,611. Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) had nearly 13,000 reported issues (12,891). During the same period, Carmel Clay Schools had only 624 disciplinary incidents, which is less than half of HSE’s number. Having said that, Carmel also had 24 school-related arrests and 6 referrals to law enforcement, whereas HSE had none. It is interesting to note that IPS also had no arrests or referrals to law enforcement during the reporting period.

It is always interesting to look at data and see what stories it tells. To look closer at this data, you an check out the DOE site at:
https://inview.doe.in.gov/corporations/1030050000/profile

# # #

School Safety: Arming Teachers

I’ve now written a couple of articles on securing our schools. Writing on this topic would be incomplete without also covering the topics of putting guns into the hands of teachers. The idea of arming teachers has been suggested by many people, including the President of the United States. Unlike the President, there are many people and organizations that are actually qualified to comment.

While I’m not one of the qualified sources, I am qualified to share what I’ve learned from a few of them. Simply put, many qualified sources have stated that putting guns into the hands of teachers is not the right decision when it come to the overall safety and well-being of the kids.

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) released a press release on the topic of arming teachers. In their release, they clearly stated that they are against the idea arming teachers with guns. This organization is focused on getting specially trained police officers into schools, so arming teachers would reduce the need for their services. This is why it is more important to look at the reasons that indicate why arming teachers doesn’t make sense.

Where’s the Gun?

If as school decides to arm their teachers, then that raises the question of where will guns be kept? For the gun to be useful, it must be readily accessible. Most important, however, is that any guns must also be absolutely secure. Keeping a gun secure while maintaining its accessibility in a classroom setting would be a monumental challenge, especially in the lower grade levels where teachers tend to be more actively engaged with the kids and where the kids are active within the room.

Police and school resource officers keep their guns with them. An elementary school teacher that interacts with the kids with close contact would have a hard time maintaining the security of a gun strapped to their body.

There are also questions about the visibility of a gun strapped to a teacher. Assuming a gun could be safely and securely carried by a teacher, then there is a concern about whether this would cause additional anxiety for the kids in the classroom.

Level of Training

It is uncommon to see civilians or others carrying guns. When it comes to police officers, a gun is a part of their uniform. It is a common occurrence to see a gun on an officer. More importantly, police officers are given training that on not only using a weapon, but also on how to overcome anyone trying to take their weapons.

In fact, police officers receive extensive and regular training. The area of security is a core focus of what police officers do and not an “add-on” like it would be for teachers. Officers that are placed in schools, School Resource Officers (SROs), are not only trained as police officers, but they also receive additionally training that includes coverage of the following:

  • Emergency Operations Plans
  • CPTED/Vulnerability Assessments
  • Threat Response
  • ALICE Lock-down Response
  • Trauma Informed Practices
  • Human Trafficking
  • School Law
  • Understanding Special Needs Students
  • Adolescent Mental Health
  • Violence and Victimization in Youth (ACES)
  • Policing the Teenage Brain
  • Drug Trends/Prevention

Training with guns is a regular part of officers’ core job. It is not something tacked onto that they do, but rather it is a core part of their profession.

Teachers are trained on kids and teaching. Training for teachers centers on interacting and educating kids. While some of this overlaps with some of the items listed above for SROs, teacher training generally doesn’t include working with the same level of threat responses and emergency operations that police officers receive.

Mental Preparedness

Teachers work within a classroom with kids. That’s a special skill that teachers are expected to do. Being mentally prepared to wrangle 20 to 30 kids and keep them focus is a skill that takes is backed by years of training. Teachers are trained to be mentally prepared to work within the classroom setting and to engage kids in learning.

Police officers training is related to the topics mentioned earlier, as well as training on marksmanship and the use of firearms. This police training along with regular practice is intended to help with their physiological response in high stress situations. Because teachers would not have this same level of regular training, the chances for making a mistake is much higher, especially in a high-stress situation.

School shooter situations tend to happen in areas with a lot of people. Shooting a gun in a crowded area such as a classroom or hallway can be very risky because there is a chance of hurting an innocent bystander. Again, part of the training for police officers is on knowing when the risks are too high to even use a gun.

Mistaken Identity

While School Resource Officers dress as police officers, teachers don’t. If a police officer were to respond to an issue at a school, it would be very easy for them to mistake a teacher for an armed assailant. The result is that such a case of mistaken identity could cause intense situations or worse the mistaken identity could result in a teacher being shot by an officer.

Sending Police into Schools

NASRO president Don Bridges has commented that “We can’t send officers into schools without being trained.”  In my article, “Safety and the Students at Hamilton Southeastern Schools: Part 1”, I provide more details on what School Resource Officers are. SROs are specially selected police officers selected to work within schools. Before starting at a school, they are given additional training specific to schools and school issues.

In Summary

NASRO recommends that only trained officers carry arms on school property. Rather than trying to turn teachers into officers, the better recommendation is for more School Resource Officers to be put into schools. Let people do the jobs they are trained and qualified to do. Let teachers teach, and let School Resource Officers help keep the schools safe!

Belief that teachers can be trained to be effective with a gun without adding added new and possibly deadly risks to a school is belittling to the training that School Resource Officers receive. As one police officer in Fishers stated that situations involving guns are hard for police officers to handle even with the regular training and practice they receive. Putting the expectation on someone with less training and mental preparedness would increase the risk of something more going horribly wrong in what is already a bad situation.

# # #

Safety and the Students at Hamilton Southeastern Schools: Part 1

Back in March the Hamilton Southeastern School leadership reached out to individuals at each of the twenty-one schools to have a meeting to discuss security within the schools. The “school safety” meeting was focused on having a community conversation around how safe our kids are within the HSE schools.

The meeting was kicked off by Superintendent Dr. Bourff and lead by Dr. Beresford, the Assistant Superintendent of Staff and Student Services. They expected to have a forty- to fifty-minute presentation followed by two-way discussion. It was no surprise that the actual presentation of information by the district was closer to 90 minutes before the conversation started. In this post, I present many of my notes from this meeting. As you’ll see below, a lot was covered.

Recently the district had a second meeting that covered many of the same topics that was open to the public. That meeting was attended by hundreds of members of the community, numerous members of the police forces from around Hamilton County, and the mayor. The comments made at this more recent meeting were similar to the comments made in March.

Safety Procedures at Hamilton Southeastern Schools

Dr. Bourff kicked off the March meeting by indicating that there are many safety procedures in place within the HSE schools that they couldn’t share in order to protect the procedures. It was stated that there are a number of safety procedures in place and that many of the safety procedures would continue to evolve and improve.

The point person within HSE for security related activities is Dr. Beresford. (Update: Dr. Beresford is leaving HSE Schools to work for the Carmel-Clay district. As such, it is expected that a new person will be taking the role of security related activities for HSE.)

Dr. Bourff indicated that there are many layers to the safety procedures within the school system that all work together. In addition to these layers, there are many individuals within the school system that contribute to core initiatives around the safety and security of the kids.

Dr. Beresford stated, “We’re responsible for keeping your kids safe.” He went on to say that school shootings shake everyone up. Shootings not only impacts the kids and parents, but it also shakes up the teachers and administration. It is for this reason that they have a lot of people engaged in continually improving the strategy and in working with the schools and community. Many of the people leading safety initiatives attended the March meeting to present on School Safety.

Three Layers of Prevention

Dr. Beresford indicated that there are three areas of focus when discussing school safety: Prevention, Response, Recovery.

One of the most important keys to prevention of issues within the schools is to maintain positive relationships and communication. By having positive relationships, it is more likely communication will happen. There are three layers of communication that are pinnacle for reducing the chance of safety issues happening within the school.

The number one source of information around potential issues is students.

The importance of keeping channels of communication open with the students and others was emphasized as being critical. The school works hard to make sure that students are comfortable in sharing what they hear or see that might seem out of line or a bit “off”.

The second layer that provides information in the prevention of issues is communications from parents and staff. Like with students, parents and staff are more likely to see or hear something that could indicate an issue.

The third layer in the prevention is the communication that happens via other sources. This would include comments and tips that come from social media or other sources. Social media sources such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat often are used as sources to provide evidence of potential issues.

Text-a-Tip

One of the existing preventative programs currently in place is Text-Tip, which is a program that allows students, parents, or others to send text or email messages anonymously. It was indicated that these tips go through a third party that is outside of Indiana. This helps maintain the privacy of the person making the tip. Even by going through a third party, it was indicated that the system can be extremely fast and can be two-way. The administration has the ability to reach back to the third party, which can then respond back to the tipster if more information is needed.

Text-a-Tip is one of the top two or three channels for the administration to get information. It was indicated that the system is helpful beyond even security information. Text-a-Tip can be added to your mobile phone contacts under the number 274637.

Mental Health Initiatives

When it comes to school safety, mental health is a topic that is brought up as well. It was stated that “mental health is always a piece of the profile of kids that do violence.”

Within the Hamilton Southeastern schools, several mental health initiatives have been pushed to the forefront this past year. This includes each of our schools having a therapist that is available to the students. This was a direct result of the referendum dollars and a program that was set up with Community Health.

Along with the addition of therapists, there has been training within the schools. All staff have received suicide prevention training as well as CIT-Y, Critical Incident training. All of this is overseen by a director of mental health and school counseling, Brooke Lawson, who works within the Central Office.

Police in the Schools: School Resource Officers (SROs)

One of the key areas of helping secure our schools is the inclusion of School Resource Officers (SROs). There are currently seven SROs within the HSE school system. At the recent public meeting, it was stated that the district is looking to add additional SROs in the future. Lt. Mike Johnson talked at the meeting about the role of the SROs within the schools.

SROs are trained police offers that have the roles of teaching, counseling, and providing enforcement. While these are police officers, the role of law enforcement is really a minor part of what they do. They are also not disciplinarians. That is a role that the school takes on.

Lt. Mike Johnson defined SROs as:

A School Resource Officer (SRO) is a career, sworn, law enforcement officer employed by the police department or other law enforcement agency in a community-oriented policing assignment to work in collaboration with one or more schools.

The SROs are focused on building relationships within the schools with the students. Because it is a unique role, not ever police officer is qualified to become an SRO. Police officers are carefully selected for the position and then specially trained. It is because of this special training and careful selection that new SROs are not immediately available. Rather, officers selected today would be trained to be ready later in the year for the positions.

SROs go through special training, which includes 40 hours of course work beyond what they learn as a regular police officer. This training includes a variety of areas including:

  • Emergency Operations Plans
  • CPTED/Vulnerability Assessments
  • Threat Response
  • ALICE Lockdown Response
  • Trauma Informed Practices
  • Human Trafficking
  • School Law
  • Understanding Special Needs Students
  • Adolescent Mental Health
  • Violence and Victimization in Youth (ACES)
  • Policing the Teenage Brain
  • Drug Trends/Prevention
  • And more…

One of the tasks that SROs do above and beyond working within the schools is to create a list of issues they find in the schools. This can range from things as simple as broken sidewalks where someone could get hurt to concerns with student access that could cause safety issues.

Overall, the SROs are involved in many programs within the schools. Some of the programs that have evolved within the district include:

  • Safe School Teams / Safe School Specialists
  • DARE Program
  • Cops and Kids
  • CPTED
  • Explorers / Teen Academy
  • Text-a-Tip
  • Youth Mentoring
  • Books and Badges
  • Coaching
  • Mock Accidents
  • Bully Prevention
  • Pre-School Safety
  • Youth Assistance

In addition to the communication that happens with the SROs within the schools, there is also regular communication between the local police and the school leadership. Issues such as domestic violence can have an impact on a child and thus it is important for councilors and certain others within a school system to be aware of such issues.

Continue to Safety and the Students at Hamilton Southeastern Schools, Part 2.

Safety and the Students at Hamilton Southeastern Schools, Part 2

This is a continuation of the Safety and the Students at Hamilton Southeastern Schools, Part 1 article.

Safety Specialists

Christi Thomas talked about communications and the use of safety specialists within HSE. It is required by state legislation for school districts to have at least one safety specialist. HSE has 40 trained specialists on staff with at least one in each of the 21 schools.

In addition to having safety specialists, each school also has a safety plan that include an emergency reference guide. These plans are available in flowcharts for easy use to those that need them. These are not made public because, as mentioned before, their confidentiality helps in providing security to the schools.

The overall program for the safety specialist is led by the safety coordinators, Christi Thomas mentioned earlier and Ryan Taylor. Additionally, the Indiana School Safety Specialists Academy (ISSSA) is used.

While school shootings have been the topic in the limelight, there are other issues that are rare, but real as well. The safety specialists don’t want to be too distracted from issues that happen more often. This can include issues such as seizures in class, missing kids, or even gas leaks. The little things that happen every day are important to manage as well as those rarer issues.

ALICE

One area that the schools focus on for safety is ALICE. More can be found on the ALICE program at www.alicetraining .com. Alice stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate. It is a program that addresses methods to proactively handle a thread such as an aggressive intruder or active shooter.

While the acronym includes the phrase lockdown, the core of the ALICE training is that each situation is different and thus students and teachers need to know the options they have in dealing with situations. The ALICE training site has a lot of information for individuals, organizations, and more.

One area of ALICE that has caused controversy is the “C” for Counter. This was addressed with the statement that “If you do nothing, bad things will happen. If you do something, then bad things might happen.” The protocol of hiding in the corner is no longer considered a good approach. Distracting or otherwise taking action is considered a better approach. A reference was made to Virginia Tech, where it was noted that the kids that ran and fought were the ones that survived.

While tornados haven’t killed students in recent years, schools still do drills to keep kids safe. It was noted that there are roughly 77 million students. An average of only 11 are killed a year. Having said that, it was stated that “No bad guy has breached a locked door at a school.”

What HSE Schools are Already Doing

HSE schools are ahead of the curve on some of the programs that have been implemented in regard to safety. Again, while all the changes were not discussed, there are several key programs that have improved the safety of the schools within HSE.

Better Access Control

One of the biggest changes that occurred after Sandy Hook has been the revamping of the primary entrances to schools to give better access control. During the daytime hours, visitors are required to enter through the schools’ main entrances. In the past, small cameras were used with a buzzer for people to request entry into a building. This has been completely replaced with vestibules that were designed for a more secure entry. These include laminated glass doors that allow the office staff to see anyone requesting to enter the building. Unlike the cameras, the staff can get a full view of the person along with their body language. The previous use of buttons and cameras didn’t allow for this level of visibility.

In the few cases where the vestibules couldn’t be added, high definition cameras and other monitoring have been added to increase the visibility of who is entering.

Delay, Delay, Delay

There are also multiple sets of doors. These doors provide delays in people getting into the building. The idea of “delay, delay, delay” is a part of the security strategy. Slowing down a person’s ability to get into the school increases the time for those within the school to react.

Many of the schools have included glass walls for visibility and a more open concept. The increase of glass in school designs is a safety concern that often gets brought up. It is important to know that the entry doors and glass walls are laminated. While this is not bullet proofing, it does prevent the glass from shattering. It was stated that laminated glass walls are as safe or possibly even safer than walls made with drywall.

Background Checks

An additional safety feature is the use of background checks. All visitors to HSE schools are required to have a recent background check on file. While many people feel that background checks are silly, they are a key part of the safety strategy that started about 12 years ago. HSE currently uses Safe Visitors out of Plainville, Indiana to do the checks.

If a person has an issue on their background check, then they will not be allowed to enter the buildings during the school day. It has been stated that several people have complained about not being allowed to sit with their child at lunch, to volunteer, or to attend a class party. Regardless, the school system has indicated that if a background check isn’t clean, then a person won’t be allowed into the school.

Teachers also get background checks when they are hired as well as every five years after.

Communication

One of the areas that the district has been working to improve is communication. Communication can occur anywhere from a one-to-one level all the way up to district wide communications using. There are a variety of avenues for communicating that include the district web site that is being updated to the Skylerts that send emails and text messages. With staff, the district uses a set of redundant tools that range from telephone calls to texts to emails and emergency radios.

The school system has put in place common language in the form of the Common Language Safety Chart that is to be used when discussing issues. The following figure shows the wording used based on the level of threats that might occur.

Continuous Improvements

Safety is an area that will require constant updating. As threats evolve, so must the plans and efforts to insure the safety of the kids attending our schools. Members of the HSE school safety team do regular evaluation of school incidents that occur in other cities, states, across the country, and even internationally. There are debriefings that occur on school safety incidents. Additionally, there are regular reviews as well as an annual ISSSA certification.

This article continues with Safety and the Student at Hamilton Southeastern Schools, Q & A.