With school safety a nationwide concern and having received three threats last month, the Hillsboro City Schools have decided to hold an information forum that is open to the public at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 14 in the high school auditeria.
“School safety has been at the forefront of our minds at Hillsboro City Schools, as well as across the country, the past couple weeks,” superintendent Tim Davis said in a letter that was sent home with all students in grades K-12 Wednesday. “We have dealt with a few issues in our district, as well as numerous rumors that have proven to be false, and this has heightened concerns by our students, parents and district staff. I understand your concerns.
“Like you, I am also a parent, and my children’s safety is paramount to me. While I wish that we did not live in a society where incidents like those in Florida, Sandy Hook and Columbine occur, that is not our reality. It is more important than ever for our schools, our parents, and our community to work in partnership on behalf of our children. We know parents have a lot of questions right now about what the district is doing to keep our kids safe and what roles parents can play as partners with the schools.”
Davis said that during the forum officials will discuss what has been done and what is going to be done. He said that this week students are being asked to write down their concerns about school safety and that hopefully some students will be willing to share those concerns at the forum.
Other form topics will include:
• Davis will talk about school security, recent issues in Hillsboro’s school buildings, and what steps are being taking as a district to provide the most safe educational environments possible;
• There will be a look at some of the safety and security measures the district has in place in its buildings and an overview of what kind of training and drills the district provides to its staff and students;
• Advice for students and parents about the roles they can play in partnering with the schools to ensure the students are safe;
• Hillsboro Police Chief Darrin Goudy, Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera and Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District Chief Dave Manning will be in attendance.
“This program is open to our community, and I encourage you to attend,” Davis said in the letter. “For now, I urge every parent to sit down with their children and talk to them, listen to them, speak with them about if they see something, say something. Encourage them to reach out to you and to school staff members if they know someone who needs help. Remind your children that if they have concerns or ever feel unsafe, they should contact any member of our school district staff for help.”
Students nationwide have called for a national school walkout for 17 minutes beginning at 10 a.m. on March 14 across each time zone, but Davis told The Times-Gazette on Thursday that the Hillsboro schools are not promoting it or supporting it.
“Instead, join us for this safety forum so we can hear your concerns and make sure that everyone is safe,” Davis said.
The superintendent said that any student that walks out during school hours on March 14 would be considered to be skipping class and insubordinate, because the school district is telling students not to walk out.
He said the school is considering some type of observance during the school day on March 14.
In his letter to parents, Davis urged parents to log into their students’ social media accounts, photo streams and text messages.
“Be proactive, and make this a priority,” the letter said. “So many of the tragedies that have occurred nationwide have had warning signs and being involved in your children’s social media is an important role for parents.
“Remember, your children will take many of their cues from you as parents. I know this has been a stressful couple of weeks, but it is our job as adults to be a calming, reassuring influence in our children’s lives. Urgent concerns should, of course, be brought to the immediate attention of a building administrator or law enforcement.”
He thanked school staff for managing challenging situations in recent weeks, students who brought issues to the staff’s attention, and local law enforcement for helping keep the students safe.
“Thank you to all our parents who have expressed support and concern,” the letter said. “Together, we can continue to ensure our schools – and our children – are given a first-class education in a safe learning environment. This must be a unified effort, now more than ever.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or [email protected]