How Do We Keep Our Schools Safe?

This week’s post will not contain any advice on financial planning or investments or how much to save to achieve financial freedom. Today, I take a break from that to discuss what may be the most important issue in America today: keeping our children safe while in school. I was recently appointed to the District Safety Advisory Council organized by Fayette County Superintendent Manny Caulk. This Council is charged with “developing specific and actionable recommendations” on ways to make our schools safer. We had our first meeting on March 1 and will submit our recommendations no later than the first week of April, so this is designed to be a crisp process.

Now, I am a product of 1970’s-era schools where my biggest fears at school were being ambushed with snowballs by Jimmy Horne and Mark Velicer, the terrifying prospect that Heidi Moisenko might actually speak to me, or that Mike Zack’s mom might put cow tongue in his lunch again. Fast forward to today, and you don’t need me to describe our fears as parents of children in school.

Dr. Caulk recently summarized the urgency of this issue in an email to Fayette County Public Schools families with the following:

Our community is hurting. And since our schools are a reflection of the community we serve, our schools are hurting too. In the span of six hours last month, three teenagers died of gunshot wounds in Lexington. And in the span of nine days this month, students from three of our high schools – Frederick Douglass, Henry Clay and Paul Laurence Dunbar – have been arrested for serious crimes involving guns and the safety of our campuses.

This is unacceptable and, as a parent and father, I share your frustration.

There is nothing more important to me than ensuring the safety of our students, staff and campuses. As your superintendent, I take seriously our responsibility to care for your children while they are in our schools and send them safely home at the end of the day. I fully understand the sacred trust you place in us when you send your children to school. Students cannot be successful when they don’t feel safe. And I will not tolerate anything that interferes with our children’s ability to learn at high levels and fulfill their unlimited potential.

The Council heard or is scheduled to hear the following presentations for our background and to stimulate discussion:

o March 1 — State and national best practices, at Paul Laurence Dunbar
o March 8 — Juvenile justice and crime, at Tates Creek
o March 15 — Mental health, at Bryan Station
o March 20 — Social media, at Lafayette
o March 22 — Discussion of recommendations, at Frederick Douglass
o March 29 — Discussion of recommendations, at Henry Clay

I will be the very first to admit that I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I’m quite certain I don’t even know all the questions. There are students dealing with issues in this community that, quite candidly, are unfathomable to me. Our schools have to help students that don’t get enough food, don’t speak English well, have little to no supervision at home, who don’t stay in the same place more than a few days at a time, are influenced by gangs and on and on. And, now, of course, we need our schools to take an even more active role in policing our schools for guns and for protecting those students who feel the need to have a weapon as well as those students who could be innocently harmed by those weapons. And then, and only then, can our schools begin to teach our kids.

This Council needs your input, ideas and suggestions. While there are several ways to make it more difficult for weapons to make it into our schools, there are tradeoffs with every single one of them. Understanding what kind of environment the people of this community want for their kids is vital as we prioritize options.

Please give us your ideas by emailing advisorycouncil@fayette.kyschools.us no later than March 20. Suggestions are being compiled there to ensure the Council has an opportunity to review all of them. You can also learn more about the Council here: https://www.fcps.net/domain/8953.

Thank you.

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