I think it's safe to say we are all thinking of things a little differently, and urgently, after the tragic event at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida two weeks ago. Dick's Sporting Goods and WalMart are taking matters into their own hands and tightening up the reigns on their gun sales. Kroger just joined in and raised the age limit on their gun sales to 21. I didn't even know Kroger sold guns?! So you can run out for milk, bread and a gun all in one stop? Kinda gives me a stomach ache. Just today our President decided to surprise us with his newfound support of more stringent gun control laws. I don't want to get into a political debate here, but at a local level, there was a "Moms Demand Action" meeting in Kirkland on Sunday that was standing room only at Kirkland Middle School (photo) so this is clearly front of mind for many in our community. And don't mess with the mamas.
I have friends that live in both Newtown and Parkland, both sought-after communities that will forever be changed. Students are scared to go to school. So of course this gets me thinking, how can we impact the bigger picture? But also drilling down on the issue, what are we specifically doing here in Kirkland to keep our kids safe? Our schools have ALICE training for staff and also students where appropriate. Which is good info for reacting to a situation, however, I'd prefer to insure we are focusing enough efforts on prevention. Many of our schools actively promote the concept of "see something say something." Our district has a Comprehensive Safety Plan and each school has a building-level plan that aligns to the district plan. There is also a safety committee that regularly meets with law enforcement, first responders, safety experts, building admin and PTSA parents reps to review and enhance safety protocols.
But here's the interesting thing that I learned. Our city has one Kirkland Police SRO (School Resource Officer) assigned to each of our high schools that are 'available to assist' at the middle and elementary schools as needed. This model is not consistent across the district, rather it depends on the jurisdiction of the school. For example, Redmond (also in LWSD) has full time SRO's at Redmond HS, Redmond MS and Rose Hill Middle. Bellevue, which is not in our district but another Kirkland neighbor, also has SRO coverage at the high school and middle school level. Funding and resources are required from both the school district and the jurisdiction to fund these SRO positions. LWSD Superintendent Dr. Traci Pierce said they are currently looking into what would be required to implement standardized SRO support for our schools regardless of jurisdiction. They are working on putting together some upcoming community forums on the topic as well. Mayor Amy Walen responded to my inquiry stating "we are looking at what measures we can take at a local level and what we can do to coordinate with the schools. This is extremely important to all of us and at the top of our minds."
I encourage you to comment below, but let's focus on productive ideas to keep our kids as safe as possible in our schools. What ideas do you have? What have you seen other places? I think having an SRO stationed on site with vehicle presence on property at high school and middle school levels should be a minimum requirement. My sister lives in Texas and every person has to get 'buzzed' in during school hours at their elementary, although their school is much newer than some of ours. Just for kicks I asked my step-mom (who works for a PD in NJ) what protocol was for their SRO headcount. They have 2 SRO's in the (1) high school in addition to security staff, 2 in the (1) middle school and 1 in each of the (5) elementary schools. Wow. How about more headcount for counselors so that they have time to get to know the kids? Anonymous reporting mechanism? (is there an app for that?) Looking forward to productive conversations on the subject so we can continue to keep our kiddos safe.