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School safety begins with us

By Staff | Aug 12, 2022

School district and local law enforcement had a joint message this week: School safety is their top priority.

Officials here say campus safety has been ramped up with additional training provided and more preventative measures implemented.

“Our staff has worked diligently to secure perimeters, enhancing points of entry and participate in training for our emergency alert system and to make sure the safety protocols are followed each and every day,” said Dr. Christoper Bernier, superintendent for the School District of Lee County, in a joint press conference with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office this week.

Sheriff Carmine Marceno said his agency has been aggressive in its training of school resource officers with the Cape Coral Police Department, which has 30 officers assigned to schools in the city, sharing a similar message on the department’s Facebook page.

In the wake of the cited “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” that compounded the loss of life at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, this is welcome news.

Sheriff Marceno went on to say that in addition to what law enforcement and the school district have done to prepare, the community still has a role in keeping students and school personnel safe.

“We need your help, too. ‘See it. Say it. Make the call.’ It works,” Sheriff Marceno said. “Talk to the SRO, or call a tip in to the hotline and remain anonymous. Do not ignore a red flag. Parents and guardians, most importantly, talk to your children. Times have changed. Children need to know the power of cell phones and social media.”

We agree.

School safety starts with us — parents, guardians and other adults who can monitor our children’s mental health and well-being and their social interactions, including those online.

School safety starts with school campuses where limited access and locked doors serve as a deterrent and safety protocol should be rote knowledge.

School safety starts with trained law enforcement personnel and proactive policing that includes not only an on-campus presence and adherence to the schools’ safety mitigation plan but the use of technological and investigative tools that flag potential problems for possible monitoring or investigation.

The last line of defense is where we don’t want to be — a breach somewhere within all of these safety efforts and protocols resulting in an armed individual accessing one of our campuses or entering one of our schools.

Let us be clear:

We agree that our district, and our local law enforcement agencies, have been diligent and are well-trained and an actual in-school intrusion through happenstance like an unlocked door is thankfully unlikely.

We agree that it is also highly unlikely the CCPD or the Lee County Sheriff’s Office would be ill-equipped to effectively and promptly handle such a situation should it somehow occur.

But the implementation of active shooter protocols is the last line of defense and, as well prepared as our schools, our district, our law enforcement personnel may be, no one wants to reach a point where our front line personnel are forced to be any school’s last line of defense.

So back to us. All of us.

Sandy Hook Promise, on its website, sandyhookpromise.org, offers some behaviors that might indicate a child, youth or someone else you know is in crisis or might be planning an action we think would never be possible.

It makes note that its list is not a complete one, and that “exhibiting one of these signs doesn’t necessarily indicate imminent violence.”

Things to watch for, though, include:

1. Suddenly withdrawing from friends, family and activities (including online or via social media)

2. Bullying, especially if targeted towards differences in race, religion, gender or sexual orientation

3. Excessive irritability, lack of patience, or becoming angry quickly

4. Experiencing chronic loneliness or social isolation

5. Expressing persistent thoughts of harming themselves or someone else

6. Making direct threats toward a place, another person, or themselves

7. Bragging about access to guns or weapons

8. Recruiting accomplices or audiences for an attack

9. Directly expressing a threat as a plan

The last few are especially important, according to Sandy Hook Promise, which stresses that “Knowing The Signs Saves Lives.”

They offer some statistics to back up their premise: A Department of Homeland Security study of school shootings found that 93% of school shooters had planned the attack in advance and in “four out of five school shootings, the attacker told people of their plans ahead of time.”

See it. Say it. Make the call.

To a health care professional.

To a crisis hotline.

To law enforcement.

If something feels wrong, please don’t wait.

— Breeze editorial