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Dearborn Supt. Addresses School Safety in Letter to Community

Supt. Brian Whiston sent out this letter to parents and community members Monday following Friday's shooting in a Connecticut school.

Dear Community Members,

I know all of us are deeply saddened by the tragic event that occurred in Connecticut on Friday. As rational people we struggle to understand actions that are totally irrational and try to make sense of explanations that never will.  

When we see the faces of the innocent children, the victims of this tragedy, we can’t help but see the faces of our own students. When we hear of the heroic principal and teachers risking their lives to save students, we feel the pain and sympathize with those who knew and worked with these brave individuals. For all of us our hearts are filled with sorrow and as a community we offer our thoughts and prayers to the families in Newtown.

Our staff does an excellent job of having “the pulse” of their school and over the next few days will be paying extra attention to how the students are reacting to this tragedy. If any child seems to be overly upset or concerned about this event, please know that we have outstanding resources available in our schools and students can talk with our highly-trained professional team of Social Workers and Psychologists.

Throughout our district we will be keeping the following in mind:

Age appropriate discussion in the right classroom context will most likely occur but should not dominate the conversation of the day. This is especially true in the elementary grades where any in-depth conversation is best left to the parents. 

With younger students it is important to make sure they feel safe at school; we will remind them:

  • That although this was a very tragic event that has made us all very sad, it did not   happen  at one of our schools, it did not happen in Dearborn, it occurred in another part of our country.
  • Although adults and the news are talking a lot about this tragedy, this is rare and nothing like this has ever happened here.
  • Policemen, parents, teachers, and all school staff are here to keep them safe. 

As always we want to work with our parents to create the safest possible learning environment.  We ask that parents keep the following tips in mind:

  • Over-exposure to this horrible event at home may lead to students feeling distressed, overwhelmed, and frightened. It is important to limit the amount of exposure to this event, especially younger children. 
  • 24 hour news channels will show the same footage over and over.  For younger children they may not be able to understand that this event happened once and is not happening again and again.
  • School is a safe place and we do have security procedures in place.

As a district it is important for parents to know that we continually work to ensure the safety of students and staff during the school day. We have always and will continue to follow these procedures:

  • All staff must have their ID on them at all times and it should be visible.
  • All visitors must sign in at the main office and receive a visitor’s pass.
  • Students and staff are not to open any exterior doors for anyone.
  • As required, all schools practice their emergency drills throughout the year.
  • All schools do have a detailed security/crisis plan in place and it is reviewed each year.
  • The district has an excellent relationship with the police department and works closely with them to review security protocol and procedures.

We have been in contact with the Dearborn Police Chief and he has informed us that there will be a stepped up police presence around our schools over the next few days.

In the days ahead there will be much discussion about what we as a nation can do to try and stop these types of tragedies from occurring again. I’m sure that there will also be opportunities to support the families and community of Newtown. I hope that all of us personally, and as a district, can be involved in these activities. Although time may mend the wound that shattered this quiet community, those who were lost will never be forgotten.

Please know that by working together we will ensure that all of our schools continue to be a safe place for students to learn and achieve.

Regards,

Brian J. Whiston
Superintendent, Dearborn Public Schools

City of Dearborn (Editor) December 17, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Parents: Do you feel like your children are safe in school? Was it difficult to send your kids back this morning?
kate alkhatib December 17, 2012 at 08:30 PM
I do not believe that our kids are as safe as they could be here in Dearborn. I did voice my concern in an email that was responded to by the school board president and I was told that there just isn't enough money in the budget for needed security measures. Seems pretty sad to me and I am now considering my options for other school district or home schooling now. Even cash strapped cities such as Garden City have more security for their schools.
Donna Hay December 17, 2012 at 09:06 PM
I cannot not believe that there just isn't enough money in the school budget for needed security measures. I'm sure if they 'dug deep' there would be money somewhere in their rainy day fund. Another thing that I don't understand is how easy it is to get into a school like Whitmore Bolles, you walk in the front door and have all kinds of access to go down the hall and never have to stop at the office to sign-in. No one can ever say that our children are safe or this will not happen in Dearborn - just ask the parents of the 18 children that were killed.
City of Dearborn (Editor) December 17, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Some school districts, like Rochester, are using parent volunteers to man the doors this week. Do you think that's a good idea?
Lee Jacobsen December 17, 2012 at 09:23 PM
All the teachers that are smart enough to learn how to carry and shoot a handgun should be taking the Concealed Weapons Class, (3 hours $100 includes range fee). Hopefully, Snyder will sign so we can shoot back against the crazies who, obviously, are smart enough to realize that schools, theaters, churches are safe killing zones. The crazy in CT did himself in when other guns besides his own arrived on the scene. If one of the teachers were armed, just one, perhaps that would have been enough firepower against him to cause fear, to do himself in quicker, saving the kids. Outlawing guns does nothing, crazies don't follow laws. They only understand force, and fear, and when you present an opposing force, they usually commit suicide, like the nut in CT. Crazies can be smart. Wasn't the theater nut going for his doctorate? How hard is it to fake an ID, cajole a kid into opening a door, 'forget' to sign in at the office, copy a visitor's pass? Response time for Dbn police is fast, a minute or two at most? A lot of shooting can happen in a minute, and if you are in a closet dodging bullets, wouldn't you rather be shooting back rather than calling 911? Also didn't see anything about loose fitting clothing. This lad on the video would have an easy time fitting in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75sWALt2IzI Oh..yes.....that is an uzi he is pulling out of his back pocket, and a shot gun, two 45s, and a plethera of oher weapons. We could be safer. Videos?
kate alkhatib December 17, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Donna, You are so correct my children's school is the same. The people at Sandy Hook at least has some warning as they heard him breaking, in our schools the carnage would have been far worse. I also believe that you are correct, somewhere I am sure there is money. If Garden City can find money to secure their schools then we should be able to.
BetteJo Jones December 17, 2012 at 11:11 PM
It is obvious that we can't guarantee absolute safety for students. This tragedy can happen anywhere at anytime. We should make every attempt to make these scenarios as difficult as possible to create. There is no one single solution but a combination to observe and utilize. No child should be afraid to go to school.
Lee Jacobsen December 17, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Bettejo, What combination would you suggest? Mine was essentially to make any crazies afraid to try anything, for fear of being shot to death by armed teachers protecting their classrooms and students, armed to the teeth.....in case all of the other protective means fail.
marooned in Dbn December 18, 2012 at 12:08 AM
There is plenty of blame to go around in this CT. school incident. Mom was described a paranoid "survivalist". Shooter son was on psychopathic drugs. (what kind wasn't mentioned,and barely talked about, but I'll bet Prozaic or similar). Let's get his doctor to make a statement if there's a posthumous trial. The gun issue here, in my opinion, is that Mom should have used trigger locks...at the very least, and kept ammo in a locked metal toolbox. If she has to tell her babysitter.."not to turn your back on him", this is the minimum that should have been done for safety. By all means, lets talk a little less about gun control and more about pharmaceutical control and use. When a person has a child that even THEY fear,in any way, maybe a gun/ammo, in the house is not a very good common sense practice if its readily accessible, and plying kids with all kinds of drug cocktails like ridalyn and prozaic may not be such a good idea either. Also, teachers are teachers...not trained cops or special agents. It takes a certain kind of mental conditioning to make a split second decision to take a life. Not every teacher may be capable of making that call. Maybe even some cops .
Dearborn Taxpayer December 18, 2012 at 12:25 AM
I don't think DPS has a consistent policy across elementary schools as to access. Are all doors locked during a certain time? How are visitors allowed access and how is it monitored? It seems that a few schools I've been to during the day control access quite well while at others I've been able to walk right in during the middle of the day without even a question. Shouldn't the supt. have addressed DPS elementary school access policy and how the administration monitors that principals are following the policy in his letter to parents? I'm afraid that there really is no consistent policy being practiced or enforced at our elementary schools.
AbuHak December 18, 2012 at 01:53 AM
This is strictly a PR move by the Superintendent. Although the high schools have beefed up security in the past few years, the schools are not capable of getting students to wear their identification badges. How would anyone know if someone doesn't belong there?? There are also dozens of doors (most were unlocked until today) in each high school which can allow someone to gain access to the buildings.
AbuHak December 18, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Lee, your a good guy, but allowing concealed weapons in schools will not work. I guarantee that the first fatality will probably be a teacher or administrator shot by an irate parent with a CCW. If not, it may be a disgruntled teacher shooting a colleague or administrator. Or possibly, a teacher shooting a student after an altercation. An accidental discharge fatality is also highly likely. This may seem like jumping to unfounded conclusions, but school's tend to have a very stressful environment for some people. I prefer having police or guards with weapons outwardly showing guarding schools instead of giving that duty to administrators, teachers or private citizens (wannabe heroes). You are correct when stating that many mentally ill people can appear very intelligent and that holds true for school personnel and parents as well as private citizens.
Rich December 18, 2012 at 02:15 AM
I can't believe (a second time) that I'm agreeing with you Lee except that we all know that having the training to get a CCW is a lot different than being to accurately use it in a tense situation. I would offer that option that ALL staff get trained to use tasers and carry them. If an accidental 'shot' hit a student or staff it is a temporary issue BUT if an "expletive-deleted so-n-so" get 'shot' with several tasers he would be incapacitated long enough to allow for the staff to properly contain him until the officers arrive.
Rich December 18, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Lee - me again! If the 'person' (?) is crazy I really don't think that they are going to even think about anything happening to themselves until after they have inflicted serious injury on as many others as possible.
Rich December 18, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Well said!
AbuHak December 18, 2012 at 02:45 AM
The policy of DPS is to create policy when the situation dictates it. Always reactionary.
kate alkhatib December 18, 2012 at 04:26 AM
I love in the letter to parents how he states that the Dearborn police will be stepping up patrols around schools for the next few days. What about after? Seems to me that he didn't do anything to address anyone's concerns.
Lee Jacobsen December 18, 2012 at 06:36 AM
Marrooned, good points! All after the fact and using 20-20 hindsight. As we saw in CT, teachers were faced with an impossible situation, yet it happened. All were heros, and I suspect, if the certain type of trained teacher you mentioned had a gun nearby, even a purse pocket pistol, that crazy may have been stopped with return fire, even if it were shot into the ceiling to give him pause. We will never know. But we do know what can be done as a consequence of the crazie's actions, and one immediate step is to role play. Tomorrow, can you, as a parent, just walk into Dearborn High School, walk down the hall, and not be questioned immediately? A crazy is not going to get a pass from the principal's office. Crazy folk don't follow the rules, or law, remember? Recently a crazy, posing as a young 32 old policeman, killed 84, many of them young folk, at a summer camp in Norway, a country with draconian gun control laws. Yet this crazy guy managed to do his thing. He waved and beckoned kids over to him, and when the kids came, he shot them point blank. He did this multiple times. He was dressed as a police officer. The kids did not have time to check his badge. The same hand-wringing occurred, why didn't anyone see that he was a fake cop? Eventually, he was wounded, and surrendered. Story here. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2017709/Anders-Behring-Breivik-arrested-holiday-island-massacre.html See a pattern? We need to shoot back...

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