by Dr. Curtis Cain – Superintendent of Wentzville School District
It was in the afternoon when I first saw the news of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida on February 14th. As a superintendent responsible for the safety of 16,382 students and 2,269 staff members, the news stopped me in my tracks and my heart sank. Not only was I thinking of the families who were learning that their son, daughter, husband, or father was not coming home – I was also thinking of my colleague, Robert Runcie, who is the Superintendent of Broward County Public Schools. School shootings are everyone’s worst nightmare – law enforcement, first responders, students, parents, teachers, administrators… and superintendents.
I sent a message the next morning to all WSD parents outlining what we do to prepare for – and prevent – such tragedies. I shared how all staff members are trained in emergency response procedures and undergo active shooter training. I shared that we have crisis plans in place for each of our buildings and I shared that we run regular drills, including an intruder drill, which helps keep the right procedures and precautions top-of-mind for our staff and students. I also shared how members of our staff have been trained to recognize and address signs of trauma in our students so we can work closely with them, providing the necessary support and interventions they need while ensuring the safety of all students. I shared that our school district has a very strong partnership with our local law enforcement officials, and that we consult with them frequently for the latest recommendations in the event of an intruder, as well as day-to-day safety issues. Our high schools are each staffed with a full-time school resource officer, and officers tied to all our buildings are quick to respond when help is needed.
I shared that counselors in our buildings are available to help students who would like to speak to someone at school about his or her feelings, concerns or fears, related to the events in Florida or otherwise. And I asked that parents talk to their kids and encourage them to share when they hear something concerning or see inappropriate posts on social media.
What I didn’t share is that I’m a parent too, and I have been questioning many things over the last week. How do we ensure our kids are safe at school when someone is deranged and determined enough to inflict harm on others and has access to weapons to do it? How do we identify and help students who have the potential to actually carry out the unthinkable? I don’t have all the answers. What I do know is that we will continue to explore what more we can do to keep our kids safe without our schools morphing into prisons, and we will forge ahead with our critical training to understand trauma and its devastating effects on a young child.
We take our responsibility very seriously to do everything we can to keep our students and staff safe. Fortunately, we live in an exceptional community that cares deeply about kids and about each other. If you see or hear something, say something – and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Together, we can work to provide school safety measures that are meaningful and effective, and try to ensure that students who need intervention and help actually receive it.