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School Safety Q&A

 

  • How does the district stay up-to-date with the most current recommendations, best practices and requirements regarding district/school safety?
    • Ichabod Crane Central School District officials achieve this in a variety of ways. Our district officials maintain an active relationship with local and state law enforcement. This includes participating in the School Resource Deputy (SRD) program, Columbia County Safe Schools Team, Columbia County Threat Assessment Team, collaborating with Needham Risk Management and including law enforcement on the District-Wide Safety and Health Committee.
    • School district staff across all departments regularly attend health and school safety training sessions and conferences, in addition to the annual professional learning sessions on school safety, security, violence prevention and mental health.
    • District and building officials annually update School Safety Plans with stakeholders from across the school community to ensure that all information included is accurate and relevant.
    • Our district also maintains an active relationship with our health and safety consultants, Needham Risk Management, to help ensure that the school district is in compliance and following best practices regarding school safety and security.

 

  • If someone (for example, staff, students, teachers, parents, community members) sees something concerning, what should they do? What if they feel nervous or uncomfortable about reporting it? 
    • If you see something, please say something. We know that prior to committing an act of violence, either against themselves or against others, a person has let others know what they plan to do.
    • We also know that in the vast majority of active assailant events in schools that other people were aware of an individual’s plans or intentions, but many times this information was not communicated to people who could intervene and prevent the violence from occurring.
    • We ask that if you’re worried about somebody or something, that you please talk to your teacher, your principal, or any other trusted adult in the school district so that we can take steps to prevent violence from occurring in the school community.
    • If you have questions, please use our Who Do I Contact Guide, which outlines who to contact concerning a particular area.

 

  • How do you incorporate mental health awareness and resources into your safety planning? 
    • Mental health awareness, interventions and in-district professionals continue to be essential components of each of our buildings. We strive to be proactive, rather than reactive. 
    • Prioritizing the emotional wellness of all of our staff and students is a fundamental school safety strategy employed by the district. This primary emphasis serves as a proactive and preventative measure that contributes to a safer learning environment. It fosters a culture of wellbeing, deep connections and open communication.
    • We maintain a strong K-12 Counseling Department, comprising school counselors, psychologists and a full-time social worker. This dedicated and experienced team provides many supports and services, including individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, risk assessment, ongoing professional development in research-based programs and referrals to necessary out-of-district services. 
    • Social-emotional learning and mental health awareness take on many different forms in our three buildings. For example, the Counseling Team at the Primary School hosts lunchtime social skills groups for students. These sessions include feelings check-ins and provide opportunities for students to learn about emotional expression and self-regulation. The Middle School Team also visits classrooms in grades 4 and 5, where they cover a diverse range of topics including perseverance, friendship, study skills, emotional control and addressing bullying. Counselors meet individually with all students in grades 6-8 for goal setting, as well as a general assessment to gauge each student’s progress and well-being. Last year, the High School introduced “Circles,” an instructional strategy that fosters connections between staff and students by facilitating discussions in a circular format. This approach encourages open conversations in our classrooms about important and timely topics. This year, students have also shifted from short five-minute Homerooms to longer Advisory sessions, with the main goal of strengthening bonds between students.
    • At the beginning of the school year, our experienced school counselors also introduce themselves in classrooms across the district. They continue to visit classrooms throughout the school year to discuss mental health.
    • At the district level, our Wellness Committee consistently assesses our health, physical education and SEL curricula. They also administer a mental health check-in survey sent to all students in grades 6-12. Additionally, the district has a Crisis Response Team, complete with a corresponding Crisis Response Plan that can be activated as needed. Each school has a social service dog, who has become a beloved member of the Rider family.
    • We practice mindfulness in the classrooms, which we have done for years. Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. It teaches our students to be aware of their emotions and how to process feelings in a proactive and non-judgmental manner.
    • The district surveys students, families and staff to gain a deeper understanding of our current mental health needs, facilitating the development of appropriate interventions. District staff use a multi-tiered system of supports, depending on the child’s/family’s needs, and the particular circumstance. This includes our psychologists and counselors regularly pushing into our classrooms to talk about an array of subjects, including feelings and emotions. We also have trained our Teacher Assistants, transportation and food service staff in trauma education. Other supports include group and individual counseling, parent training on mental health, and individual and therapeutic crisis intervention.

 

  • What kind of training sessions have you done in-district with the new consultant? 
    • Needham continuously work side-by-side with our administrators, faculty and staff to review individual building-level emergency response plans – as well as the District-Wide Plan, which is adopted annually by the Board of Education. Por favor haga clic aquí para leer el Plan en español.
    • The partnership with Needham allows the district to provide annual professional development offerings around safety, not only with our staff but also our substitutes, students and community members. The additional training opportunities include school safety and security (SAVE – Schools Against Violence in Education) training for building and district administrators; SAVE training for staff and faculty; SAVE training for high school students; threat assessment; supplemental first Aid training for PE Staff; Stop the Bleed; concussion training; chemical hygiene; and playground safety.

 

  • How was the district-wide Safety Plan developed? Who was involved? 
    • The District-Wide School Safety Plan is developed each year through extensive analysis of the local environment, emergency potential, and available resources. Through training and workshops that included district employees, administration, and local emergency services, the plan is developed to address the specific needs of the Ichabod Crane Central School District and the community. The plan adheres strictly to New York State regulations and guidelines. Por favor haga clic aquí para leer el Plan en español.

 

  • How many fire drills and lockdown drills does the district have each year?
    • Each school building is required to perform at least 12 emergency drills each year. Of those 12 drills, eight must be evacuation drills (fire drills) and the remaining four must be lockdown drills.  The requirement comes from State Education Law 807.

 

  • Do you tell parents and families when the drills are scheduled?
    • While we do not tell parents and families the exact dates of drills, we notify them of the window of time during which the drills will take place. We want our students and staff, by having a dozen unannounced drills each year, to be able to respond quickly, using the response tactics they were taught. We want their emergency response actions to events, such as a fire, a natural disaster, or an act of violence, to become second nature. Additionally, we do not announce our drills because it allows us to test our emergency response actions and to help students and staff continue to build their “muscle memory” when it comes to a particular drill. This provides the district, the buildings, and Needham with a better understanding of which areas are in need of improvement.

 

  • What policies do you have in place to ensure that our schools are safe and secure? 
    • Every day, ICC administrators and staff use the District-Wide School Safety Plan as a blueprint to ensure that all of our buildings are safe and secure. The school district has instituted a number of policies and procedures in order to keep the entire school community safe, including our district Code of Conduct and various layers of mental health support and social-emotional learning. Por favor haga clic aquí para leer el Plan en español.
    • The school district has a strict single-point of entry visitor process, which requires all visitors to enter the school building through a single primary entrance. Once they have been provided access through the first door of the building, they will be screened by school district personnel. If it is someone’s first visit to a building, their ID is scanned into our Visitor Management System. In subsequent visits, our greeters can type someone’s name into our system, and all their information, including a photograph, will appear. Every time someone visits, they are provided with an ID badge that must be visibly worn. Our Visitor Management System also ensures that the individual is not on the sex offender registry. This system provides district officials and administrators with an up-to-date, comprehensive log of all visitors to the campus.
    • The school district also maintains a robust camera system that provides selected individuals with the ability to monitor building entrances, hallways, exits and more in real-time.
    • The school district maintains an active relationship with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, which includes the daily presence of a School Resource Deputy (SRD).

 

  • How have you informed the community and public about your school safety initiatives? 
    • Our District-Wide School Safety Plan is posted on the Board of Education’s agenda for review and then is posted for 30 days so the public can comment prior to the board’s adoption. We typically have our safety consultant present an overview of the drafted safety plan at a board meeting during the summer, before it is posted for public comment and board approval. The approved version is posted in numerous places on our website.
    • Each year, we send a Fall Newsletter to every district resident by mail. In the last two editions, we have featured an article on school safety. Click here to read Fall 2022 and Fall 2023.

 

  • What does it mean that ICC is a closed campus? 
    • It means the campus is closed to outside visitors between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m, and after dusk. This policy doesn’t apply to members of the public invited to the district or drop-off and pick-up at the school buildings.

 

  • How many School Resource Deputies are on campus on a daily basis, and what is their schedule? 
    • Every day, a School Resource Deputy, employed by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, is on campus. Each day, the SRD rotates between the three buildings, walks the halls of all the schools, and visits classrooms. The SRD also frequently drives around the campus as a visible presence throughout the day and responds to any concerns in the buildings. The SRDs are key members of our district and building safety teams. They also run the district’s DARE program.

 

  • What technology does the district use as part of its overall safety plan?
    • In 2021, we replaced our camera system with a brand new system comprising 100 indoor and outdoor cameras across the campus in order to enhance security.

 

  • What procedures does the district have in place to assess potential threats?
    • We have a solid system in place to assess any potential threats. The school district utilizes the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines (CSTAG, formerly VSTAG) as its threat assessment model and approach to violence prevention. The CSTAG is an evidence-based program that is formally recognized by the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The CSTAG is the industry standard and has a staggering amount of research that has shown a correlation between CSTAG usage and a reduction in fighting, violence, bullying and suspension, and an increase in the use of counseling services for students, an increased positive school climate, and teachers feeling safer after implementation of the program. The CSTAG is also recognized by the New York Center for School Safety as its preferred resource for threat assessment models in New York state schools. All of our administrators and counseling staff across the district are trained in this system.
    • The school district’s threat assessment procedures allow its administrators and counseling team to assess potential threats, identify concerning behaviors, and provides students who are in crisis with resources and solutions for their problems in a comprehensive manner. School threat assessment is not a punitive or disciplinary process, but seeks to supplement the district’s existing processes and procedures with best practices for violence prevention — and ensure that protective action is taken as necessary for all staff, students, and school community members.
    • The culmination of the school threat assessment process is the development of a safety plan that is designed to address the problem or conflict underlying the threat and prevent the act of violence from taking place.