TTUSD My Turn: Sparks Middle School shooting
Ryan Summerlin October 21, 2013
Many of you are aware of the terrible school shooting incident that happened this morning at Sparks Middle School in nearby Washoe County, Nev., that left two dead and two injured. We never want to hear about violence at school, but this one hits close to home — our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and everyone involved in this tragedy. Tahoe-Truckee mourns with our neighbors in Sparks.
Whenever there is a school tragedy, our thoughts can’t help but turn to our own children and their safety at school. Providing a safe school environment for our scholars is a top priority for TTUSD. After the terrible shootings in Newtown, Conn., last December, we had several meetings with local law enforcement and have been working closely on a daily basis with the Truckee Police Department and the Placer County Sheriff’s Office to recognize signs of potential safety threats and stop them before they escalate.
We regularly evaluate our security and safety measures and have a district-wide committee specifically addressing safety. Each school has regular “lockdown” drills to help students and staff prepare specifically for threatening situations.
We have also made potential security improvements a priority in our new facilities master plan process. I have received emails about concerns at particular schools and am following up on these, and encourage parents and community members to share these concerns with the school principals.
As part of our emergency preparedness updates, last year we purchased a new emergency radio system so that all school sites can be reached simultaneously and to ensure immediate contact even in case of a power failure. We established new security protocols, involving required check-in at all school offices and visitor badges.
Our students who ride buses to and from school each have a ZPass that monitors when they get on and off the bus and where the bus is at all times. Each school also has a Safe School Plan that is updated regularly.
Last year’s updates are posted here. Schools are in the process of updating their plans with presentations to the Board of Education scheduled for early November.
In addition, through character education, counseling programs, Safe School Peer Ambassador programs at the middle schools, and student groups that meet at the Wellness Centers at Truckee High School and North Tahoe High School, our schools and community are making an effort to promote acceptance of all and to curb bullying and to reach out to students who might feel isolated.
We recognize that a safe school environment means emotional safety as well. Counselors and grief support specialists are available at all schools to speak with students about this tragedy and any feelings of fear that they may have.
When tragedies like this happen, it’s important to try to limit TV time and exposure to the media surrounding these events, and calmly and openly listen to your child’s concerns. If the conversation turns to something like this happening at their schools, you can assure them of the safety precautions in effect at their schools, including lockdown drills, emergency communications systems, and counseling resources.
On the district website, you can find good resources to help you guide your children to deal with post-disaster and traumatic events:
Further, here are the hotlines for Crisis Intervention Assistance:
• Nevada County: 530-265-5811
• Placer County: 916-787-8860
Rob Leri is superintendent and Chief Learning Officer of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.