School Safety: A Shared Responsibility
I am writing to share some information regarding a significant change related to school safety in BASD. Most importantly, I want to share that our efforts are moving forward not only with regards to school safety but also wellness.
Unfortunately, in today's society, school entities must prepare to meet any threats both internal and external to students and employees within the District. Schools should be equipped to respond with a balanced and reasoned "all hazards" approach to any potential threat. Even though the odds of a school attack are relatively low, school entities must establish protective measures as part of their emergency response processes and procedures. The Boyertown Area School District acknowledges that recent school incidents involving violence require that it take a pro-active approach.
The Boyertown Area School District Board of School Directors has established a goal of maintaining facilities and a learning environment that is safe and conducive to learning. Based upon the goal and administrative recommendation, on Tuesday, December 18 the Board of School Directors authorized the current District Police Officer to be armed on all BASD facilities and grounds. During the meeting, the Board also authorized to use force, including deadly force with a firearm, pursuant to BASD Use of Force Policy 709.2 to maintain a safe and secure environment. The armed police officer(s) will either be an off-duty and/or retired law enforcement officer(s). All such safety and security personnel must meet all of the educational and training requirements including all continuing education and continuing required training that would permit them to serve as a police officer in a local jurisdiction. To our parents, staff, students and community members, be assured that this decision was made with considerable review and consultation involving both internal and external resources and expertise. One such resource included a meeting held with the local municipal and staff police officials. Each of those officials who attended the meeting highly endorsed the recommendation and the decision to arm the current BASD School Police Officer. Also, one of our local Chief of Police and a current Berks County school police officer provided testimony and presentation to the BASD School Board in support of this decision.
Please review the December 18th meeting video.
As a parent and educator, I know this decision may create both support and reflection on the part of our community. However, I ask that you remain supportive and vigilant with us as we work to make our schools continued safe places for teaching and learning. While I am new to BASD, I am not a stranger to having school police officers. In my over 25 years of administrative service I have worked in many school districts which have had School Resource Officers (SROs) who were assigned to schools as their daily work and even grew up and attended schools with a SRO assigned to my middle and high schools as a student in Pinellas County Schools, Florida with nothing but positive experiences.
BASD is not only looking at school safety but also wellness. In January, we will begin introducing our district leadership via professional development to Social Emotional Learning (SEL), ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and the Impact of Trauma on Student Learning. As defined by CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. As noted in the Education Brief: ACEs for Educators and Stakeholders, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) of abuse, neglect and family dysfunction between birth and age 18 can disrupt brain development and limit social, emotional and cognitive functioning. ACEs are the root cause of many serious academic, social and behavioral problems that have the potential to prevent a child from receiving the full benefits of education. Experience in poverty, extreme discrimination, and community violence, as well as other traumatic experiences, can also impair the development of the growing brain and body. National Child Trauma Network indicates a traumatic event is a frightening, dangerous, or violent event that poses a threat to a child's life or bodily integrity. Children who experience an inability to protect themselves or who lacked protection from others to avoid the consequences of the traumatic experience may also feel overwhelmed by the intensity of physical and emotional responses.
Finally, I want to close by saying while we may be in a period of fiscal distress, I assure you that we will continue to focus on ways to address school safety from multiple approaches involving interventions, prevention, and not just reaction.
As always, I thank you in advance for your commitment to supporting BASD.
Dr. Dana T. Bedden
Superintendent of Schools