The Alexander County School System understands the importance of providing a safe environment for over 5,000 students and employees on a daily basis. The system has established policies and procedures pertaining to school safety. With help from local law enforcement and emergency services, the schools implement practices that help ensure the safety of everyone on the school campuses.
“Safety is our first priority, and we will not veer from that commitment. We also want to be able to communicate with parents and guardians as soon as possible when an incident occurs. We realize when parents are initially alerted about a situation at a school, you are concerned and want accurate information as quickly as possible. We want to provide accurate communication to you, but we first must ensure that emergency personnel are able to do what is required to secure the location. We treat all situations as potential threats, work to secure the location, and then communicate with parents and the media,” stated Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hefner
As is common in many school systems, false reporting, false alarms, and minor situations require a thorough assessment before communicating to all staff, parents, and the community. Once the situation is accessed, the goal is to communicate accurate information through the parent notification call system, the district website, social media, and the media.
“We will activate those lines of communication within minutes of each other. We want you to understand that the call system is our first method of communication when possible,” stated Dr. Alisha Cloer, executive director of human resources and auxiliary services.
Many of our community members, the local radio station, and newspaper are aware of calls to 911 communications via scanners.
“The information we provide for you will be verified prior to release. All emergency services are instructed to respond when an emergency call is made from a school. Unless the situation has been assessed and a call is made to cancel, please be aware that you may see local law enforcement, EMS, Fire, and Rescue, as well as law enforcement from neighboring counties,” stated Dr. Hefner. “Often in a situation, some of the questions cannot be answered immediately. Our goal is to provide a first communication letting you know we have a situation followed by factual details of the situation that can be made public.”
When a school campus goes into a code down, a lockdown, no one will be allowed to access the campus until that initial assessment is complete. This measure is for the safety of everyone.
The incident commander will take control of the situation and let school officials know when the campus has been secured, when and if students should be released, or if an alternate site is needed for reunification of students with their parents. In these situations, only parents or individuals already on the student pick up list will be allowed to leave the designated site with a student.
A protocol is developed for all threats to student safety no matter the magnitude of the event. This can include a suspect is at large in the area of the campus, a domestic dispute, an unauthorized person on campus, and many other situations.
Everyone is discouraged from sharing information that has not been released by the school system or law enforcement. Often times, when situations arise on school campuses, they are resolved or found to be false alarms within a short window of time. Communications to parents and the community may seem delayed, but it is critically important that factual information is shared with parents, students, staff, and the community.
“We ask all students, school system employees, and visitors to campus to be alert to situations that may pose a threat to student and staff safety. Everyone is asked to report any suspicious behaviors or situations on school grounds immediately,” stated Dr. Cloer.
It is a felony to falsely make a report of mass violence on educational property.