From the Superintendent's Desk

We at Ravenna Public Schools are eager to welcome back students, parents, and community members for the start of a very successful school year. This year will prove to be another wonderful year of learning and personal growth for our students at Ravenna Public Schools.

Over the summer months, I’ve had the pleasure of encountering many parents and patrons in the community and discussing a variety of issues. One recurring question that I have fielded over the course of the summer regards what the school would do in a crisis situation, such as an active shooter event. The question typically asked is, “Does the school have a plan?”

The short answer to that question is, “Yes, the school has a plan.”

Beginning in the fall of 2016, the Ravenna Public Schools Administrative Team coordinated with the Ravenna Police Department, Ravenna EMS/Fire, and the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office to develop and “Active Shooter Response Protocol”. The protocol that was developed through this collaborative effort is a clear and detailed response of how our agencies would work together, in the event of an active shooter on the school property. For very obvious reasons, we do not publicly disseminate the plan. However, I can assure you that the plan is detailed and thorough enough to provide clear guidance and a division of responsibility to emergency responders, school staff, students, and school administration, in the event of an active shooter.

Part of this protocol is having the students and staff at Ravenna Public Schools trained in a protocol called the “Standard Response Protocol”. The Standard Response Protocol is an emergency response protocol that is promoted for use across the state by the Nebraska Department of Education. It is used widely in schools across the state. The students at Ravenna Public Schools and the staff will receive a “refresher” training in this protocol early in the 2018-19 School Year to ensure they know their role when responding to emergency situations that might occur at school, including an active shooter event.

After developing the “Active Shooter Protocol” with the assistance of the Ravenna EMS/Fire, the Ravenna Police Department, and the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office, a county officer with specialized training in eliminating active shooters trained the Ravenna Public Schools teaching and support staff. During this training, the officer educated the Ravenna Public School Staff on active shooters and active shooter incidents from around the nation. Following a presentation to the staff on active shooter information, the officer did a “walk and talk” in front of the school’s staff in full tactical gear with a “dummy weapon,” enacting how he would come into the school building during an active shooter event and eliminate the active shooter. During this “walk and talk,” the officer talked aloud through his thought process and actions for staff to observe. The staff was encouraged to ask questions of the officer during and after the “walk and talk” presentation.

To greater facilitate accessible, multi-modal communication during an active shooter event, every staff member has installed a mobile app on their cell phone known as “Crisis Go”. This mobile app allows teachers and support staff to instantly and easily send a panic message and open a two-way communication link with the school administration, in the event of an active shooter or crisis situation. School staff are also trained on how to immediately notify everyone in the building of an active shooter threat, by using the school’s phone system, which has the capacity to simultaneously page all classrooms and areas of the building during a crisis event. Additionally, this past summer, the school upgraded its intercom system to further enhance the staff’s ability to communicate during a crisis event.

There are a couple very simple things parents can do to assist the school in maintaining safety for students during the 2018-19 school year:

1) Report potential threats immediately-Whether the threat is a stray animal, rumor or threat of violence, disturbing Facebook or social media post, a suspicious vehicle, a suspicious person, or something that “just doesn’t quite look right,” please report the threat to the school and law enforcement immediately. In Ravenna, we are blessed to have a responsive and engaged police department that will help the school actively evaluate and address potential threats.

2) Parents should keep their contact information current with the school, particularly cell phone numbers-During a crisis or emergency event, the school will send out text messages and phone calls using its automated messaging system. Having your correct contact information on file with the school will ensure you receive information in a timely manner.

3) Encourage your children to tell you about when they feel threatened-Most kids don’t want to be a “snitch” and students can sometimes be reluctant to make parents, teachers, and administrators aware of other students or adults who are engaging in dangerous or aggressive behavior. Help your child understand that although it may be difficult to tell someone else this kind of information that it is part of their important responsibility for keeping the school safe.

4) Engage your students in conversations about safety-Talk to your students about “what if” situations and help them think through what they would do if they felt threatened or were in a dangerous situation. As parents, you know your children better than anyone and are in the best position to use age and developmentally appropriate language to discuss potential threats with your children. Your students also value and trust your opinion.

5) Keep dangerous items out of your students’ hands-Guns, knives, alcohol, prescription drugs, etc., should all be stored safely away from students’ access. If students obtain these items and bring them to school, legal and student safety issues can quickly develop.

6) Know that all threats are addressed and reassure your students that all threats are addressed in the most aggressive manner possible-When students or adults make threats to school safety, they are always addressed and evaluated. How each threat is assessed, evaluated, and dealt with is done on a case by case basis, within legal boundaries provided by legal case precedence, education law, and the Nebraska Student Discipline Act.

In the event that there is a significant threat to school safety, parents can assist the school by doing the following:

1) Expect to hear from the school-The school will send out information to parents and patrons, during a significant safety event. This messaging will be done through the school’s messaging system; and if appropriate, through other media outlets such as radio and tv.

2) Expect to hear from your student-If there is a significant threat to school safety, your student will likely text or call you. The school will not prohibit student communication during an event.

3) Do not come to the school during a crisis-We understand that this is an incredibly difficult thing to ask parents to do, as a parent’s first instinct is to come to the school to get their child. Please be reassured that if you do show up at the school to take your child, we will release them to you. However, during a significant safety event, law enforcement and fire will secure the perimeter of the school and regulate traffic around the school, likely making access to the school impossible. They will do this to ensure emergency responders can access the property.

4) Understand that during a significant safety event law enforcement will be in charge of the scene-If law enforcement is called to the school to eliminate or address a significant safety threat, they will control the scene and access to it. This means they will likely not allow students or adults to freely move through the scene until they have secured and investigated the scene.

5) Expect to be notified for “reunification purposes” following an event-In the event of a significant threat to school safety where students need to be sheltered in place at the school or evacuated off school grounds, the school has a process for reunifying parents and students in an orderly fashion. Following an event, the school will shelter the students either on campus or off campus and systematically reunify students with parents.

Our first and primary goal at Ravenna Public Schools is to ensure the safety of all of our students. By working together as a community and developing a common understanding of how to promote safety and how to respond to significant safety concerns, we can ensure a safe and successful 2018-19 school year. Thank you for your support and cooperation in helping keep our students and staff safe. We look forward to a safe and successful school year.