April 25 Community Safety Forum
Community Safety Forum held April 25 (video)
At Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, student and staff safety is a top priority. We follow state guidelines and local and state police recommendations for safety protocols. Every year, we hold drills at each of our schools, allowing students and staff to practice in case of an actual emergency.
The responsibility to keep our children safe lies with all of us. Our leadership teams continuously examine the best ways to accomplish this task. RCS has building-level Crisis Response Teams (CRT) that reflect and strategize regularly on building safety and security concerns. There is also a district-level Health and Safety committee that examines the same difficult tasks and ensures consistency throughout the district. In collaboration with local and state law enforcement, these teams have developed comprehensive emergency response and safety plans (ERP) for our staff and students. And while strong protocols have been in place for numerous years, they evolve as new research and recommendations are presented. Law enforcement and emergency response agencies have copies of these plans and participate and consult in school emergency drills.
Strong relationships between RCS and local and state law enforcement and emergency responders are crucial to a whole-community approach to the safety of our students. Through ongoing communication and collaboration, our district regularly interfaces with multiple law enforcement agencies including the New York State Police, the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, and the Bethlehem and Coeymans Police Departments. Both Sheriff Apple of Albany County and Chief McKenna of Coeymans are very active and involved in keeping our schools safe. We have a Coeymans Police Department school resource officer presence at our schools on a daily basis and have support from the Bethlehem Police who assist with monitoring A.W. Becker Elementary.
Using these local resources and guided by the advice of security experts who are developing best-practice in the field, we continue to enhance the safety features of our facilities as our schools have undergone many physical and technological changes over the past ten years. Some ongoing security measures in place at each of the RCS buildings include:
- Security and camera verification in our entryways
- Visitor sign-in procedures
- Electronic badge systems for staff
- Regular drills for students and staff, including lockdown, lockout, shelter in place, and evacuation
- Staff member training on crisis management and identifying students who may need additional supports
- Current District Safety Plan, maintained by the CRT teams (the public version of the plan can be found on our website)
Another important aspect of our increased safety awareness is the relationships our school leaders and staff continue build with our students to become trusted confidants. The most important thing we can do to have safe and peaceful schools is to build strong connections with our students. We work hard to get to know each of our kids and to look for specific solutions and structures to help them with their obstacles.
Our school social workers, counselors, psychologists, and administrators are always available to meet with students should they ever need someone to talk to, need to express concerns, or are just having a bad day and need a place to decompress. We have a variety of classes and programs for students with more significant social-emotional needs. We also have many teams, clubs, events, and activities designed to help students become more involved in their school and community.
Regardless of our best efforts, there are times when individuals say or do things online or in the community that raise concerns for their safety and/or the safety of others. This is where the “see something, say something” advice holds true and becomes crucial. If you or your child ever has concerns about an individual’s potential threat to others or to themselves, please immediately report those concerns to school administrators or local police.
We want students to be aware of their school safety measures and act accordingly. In order for us to encourage effectiveness of our safety plan, we are asking that you have conversations at home with your children. Here are some topics to discuss:
- The importance of safety drills and why it is critical that they take them seriously.
- The need to speak to school staff if they notice anything they feel is alarming, that may lead to a safety concern.
- Find ways to express their own concerns and feelings regarding safety at school.
- Ways to make a difference. What are some ways they can take action for social change?
We understand that school violence and the resulting intense media coverage bring school safety issues to the forefront for all of us. However, children, in particular, may experience anxiety, fear, and a sense of personal risk. Knowing how to talk with your children about school safety issues could be critical in recognizing and preventing acts of violence, and will play an important role in easing fear and anxieties about their personal safety. Click here to learn more about how to talk to your child about school safety.