School Safety UpdateOCM BOCES is implementing several initiatives this year that address both our immediate response to potential threats and sustained efforts to promote the physical and mental well-being of all students and staff. All of these initiatives fall in line with the findings of the Onondaga County School Safety Task Force, which released its final report in August. Many of our 23 component districts are also implementing the initiatives listed below.
"Of course, no one can guarantee that nothing bad will happen," District Superintendent Jody Manning says. "But we can guarantee that we will do everything possible and reasonable to provide a safe and conducive learning and teaching environment for our students and staff."
Here are the initiatives taking place at OCM BOCES in 2018-19 to enhance our safety practices already in place:
OCM BOCES has contracted with the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department to provide a new school resource officer (SRO) this fall at our Cortlandville and Port Watson campuses in Cortland. We are also negotiating with the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department to hire an SRO for the Thompson Road and Crown Road campuses. As indicated in the Onondaga County Task Force Report, school resource officers with specialized training in law enforcement are a preferred method of providing safety within schools. However, OCM BOCES would like to refer to our SROs as “community liaisons” because of their proven ability to establish trust and build relationships with students and staff.
Armoured One, a local school security firm, began its training this summer for all OCM BOCES staff and will continue this training into the fall so everyone has a chance to listen to their presentation and ask questions. Armoured One follows standard response protocol from the I Love U Guys Foundation related to primary active shooter and emergency situation training. They also follow New York State protocol to standardize language commonly associated with school-based emergencies. The five emergency responses designated by the state are: (1) Lockdown; (2) Lockout; (3) Shelter-in-Place; (4) Hold-in-Place; and (5) Evacuation.
Our Rachel’s Challenge initiative will continue this year after last year’s introduction to the program proved to be a huge success. Students in multiple OCM BOCES programs have started Friends of Rachel (FOR) clubs that have truly promoted a culture of kindness and compassion in our schools and communities. For a full recap of our programs, please watch a video of our inaugural year on our OCM BOCES YouTube channel.
The training and use of a research-based model called Restorative Practices are also taking place at OCM BOCES to promote a positive school culture and promote the well-being of all students. According to the International Institute for Restorative Practices, the Restorative Practices model focuses on “how to build social capital and achieve social discipline through participatory learning and decision-making,” rather than focusing solely on punitive measures in resolving conflicts within the school environment. In a “talking circle,” for example, students who have been involved in a conflict can speak openly about their experiences as well as seek support and plan steps to reduce incidents or repair harm. Specific norms for the circle are established by the group so participants listen respectfully to one another and feel safe.
In a major initiative to understand, address and enhance the overall welfare of our students and staff, OCM BOCES has undergone extensive training and practice in a prevention approach called Trauma Informed Schools (TIS). TIS stems from the pervasiveness of trauma in our lives and its potential for deep and lasting impact on our physical and mental health. According to Coordinated Care Systems Inc., a resource for this training, a system or organization that is “trauma-informed” embraces the “core principles of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment, and understands that these principles need to be present for both the recipient of services as well as the staff.” OCM BOCES has trained its own staff in TIS as well as staff in component districts. Training includes understanding trauma and its impact as well as trauma-specific protective factors, services and treatment.
Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI) is a crisis prevention and intervention model designed to teach staff how to help children learn constructive ways to handle crises. OCM BOCES has held numerous TCI training sessions this summer and over the past year for its own staff and for staff in our component districts.
OCM BOCES is embarking on the use of this smartphone app as a way to receive anonymous tips about potential threats related to school safety. It even allows two-way anonymous communication back to the person(s) providing the information. This instant communication could significantly speed up our investigation process and assist OCM BOCES and law enforcement in responding more quickly to possible threats and emergency situations.
OCM BOCES will be using this school safety software to centralize information for school staff and provide essential, location-specific information (3D images and building layouts, for example) to law enforcement and other first responders in times of crisis. This software provides many other resources that administrators and other OCM BOCES staff can use to have one-click access to resources and be “on the same page,” so to speak, during emergencies.
A service we are working on, which is not mentioned in the county’s task force report, is an app developed by Day Automation that allows the user to lock down an entire building.
Please understand that many of these initiatives are in the early stages and will require more discussion and training before they can be effectively used at OCM BOCES. We are also offering these services to component districts through our Central New York Regional Information Center. Additional safety updates will be provided during the school year.