Search This Site
News :: Safety meeting: Participants urge awareness, communication
· 12:13pm September 18th, 2013
Safety begins with parents paying attention to their surroundings, and teaching their kids to do the same.
Among the many ideas that the audience heard during Tuesday’s meeting, that one echoed most often between the walls of the U.S. Bank Community Building.
The Benton County Advocates organized the meeting, which featured a panel that included Vinton-Shellsburg High School Assistant Principal Ryan Davis. Tim Busch was also part of the panel; he shared a few tips from self-defense classes that he teaches.
Davis told the audience of more than 20 residents about the new school safety plan, which the VS school board approved this week. School officials and law enforcement personnel have been working on the plan for two to three years.
The Virginia Tech shooting and the more recent murders of more than 20 elementary students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut have led to new safety plans.
“We have learned that ‘cowering in the corner’ doesn’t work,” said Davis.
Teachers and administrators recently participated in a safety exercise known as ALICE.
Those letters stand for: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.
While the ideal plan is to evacuate students when there is a shooter or other danger, at times it may be necessary to confront an attacker. Teachers, said Davis, learned how they can use desks, chairs or other items in a classroom to protect themselves and their students.
The training at the local schools also involved an officer firing a gun with blanks throughout the school, to familiarize teachers with how a gunshot may sound depending on how far the teacher is from the weapon. Some teachers reported that in some parts of the building, a gunshot was similar in sound to a table falling or a locker slamming.
Comparison to fire safety training
Davis said that schools are beginning to understand that they need to teach school safety and personal safety the same way they teach fire safety. Children love to see the firemen come to their schools, with their uniforms and big red trucks, said Davis. And from a very early age, they learn to call 911 or "stop, drop and roll."
Similarly, he said, schools are beginning to look for ways to teach other safety lessons.
Busch told the audience that there are some basic self-defense techniques that could help victims escape from attackers. Even women and children can learn some basic strategies to help them escape, he said. An important part of self-defense training is getting used to have someone invade ones “personal space,” Busch explained.
Awareness and action
Benton County Deputy Mike Ferguson attended the meeting and shared some of his thoughts.
He said that after a recent burglary, he spoke to a neighbor of the victim. That neighbor reported telling him that he thought it was strange seeing an unfamiliar truck backed up to the door of that house. Yet, said Ferguson, that person did not notify authorities.
Residents, he said, should contact law enforcement if they see a suspicious person or vehicle in their area.
Ferguson also told the audience that after the theater shooting in Colorado, three young men reported watching the assailant put down one weapon and pick up another. Those three could have taken advantage of the moment when the suspect was unarmed to try to restrain him, but did not.
Davis also told the crowd that communication is necessary to prevent paranoia and un-called-for panic.
He told the audience about a recent incident when one student heard two others talking and one mentioned a gun. Alarmed, that student reported the incident to school authorities, who determined that the conversation was in no way a threat to anyone.
But, said Davis, after meeting with that student to explain the situation, that student went home and told his parents. Soon there was an unfounded rumor of school violence that disrupted the community.
Ferguson said a similarly unfounded rumor took place last year, when authorities were investigating a string of burglaries. Someone posted on Facebook a report that the suspects were using a white van. However, said Ferguson, the suspects used several vehicles, none of which was a white van.
Varying perspectives among parents
Some parents expressed surprise that other parents in the community allow children as young as age 7 to walk to school alone.
Ferguson said that children do develop and mature differently.
Parent Joe Wehage said that it is important for parents to know what their children are doing, and to monitor their cell phones and Facebook pages to see what they are sharing and what photos they are sending to friends.
'New' school board welcomes Kathy Van Steenhuyse
Karley Kenney, Sam Martin reign over VS Homecoming