Webinar presenters Mike Kersey, Linda Chezem and Don Jones answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Rural School Safety. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Based on the managing part of the assessment, how are agencies and schools being notified of situations involving a student’s mental health condition such as anxiety especially given HIPAA. Are the parents divulging this information or can you share more about that?
Linda Chezem: I would note that I’m not sure that that’s occurring with any reassuring- regularity, I guess is the word. HIPAA is certainly an issue in terms of getting the records and permissions to share with the person that would be authorized to receive and enabled to take action. I am aware of some incidents in Indiana and also in Florida where no help was provided even though to someone was having a problem. The word never made it to the schools. So my sense from the discussions and reading the reports, for example in National School Safety Report, I’m not sure that information sharing is happening as it should in most instances. I think that scenario that needs work.
Audience Question: Mike you talked about getting support from the communities for your approach, for lack of more of an all-hazards approach. Do rural communities see school shootings as being an issue that they need to consider or is this police-changing and evolving over time?
Mike Kersey: It’s starting to evolve and a lot of it comes from education. I’d say take it upon yourself and reach out to this community and educate them about the realities of what you face as a responder and what you see is able to protect your schools. We all have invested interests. If you think about from the first responder’s perspective, we have children to those schools that we are responding to. So help them to see the world in sense in a way that you do and educate – not only just the schools and your political representatives and be involved in that process but also educate the parents on the realities of the events on what you can do to mitigate them.
Audience Question: Speaking of paying for these things, one of our audience members asked: how do schools pay for this kind of security. Does anyone petition the government for federal funding to provide schools with funding to implement these types of systems? How are you seeing people solve this?
Don Jones: So this is really pertinent – this is the overarching question. The school board budgets, the school district’s budget was never meant to protect the school from armed assault they were meant for education. So the resources are very minimal, in general, school districts don’t have the money to really protect from armed assault. States haven’t taken it that seriously. The federal government hasn’t taken it seriously. With Indiana – what happened in Indiana just back in April and signed in the law in May is a community-based funding law where the school boards cannot initiate a referendum to vote on specific school upgrades and it says it’s voted by the community. But it’s levy on tax and parcels, 10 cents on a hundred dollars of assessed value so it’s really the parents of the community taking ownership of the children’s safety where you can get actually get enough money to have a hardened door or a ballistic door, have ballistic glass or to do the things that will really protect lives. Everybody’s got to realize how quickly these things happen – and Mike can verify this, but less than 5 minutes and bullets just completely destroy the human body. Video cameras for example, don’t stop a mass murderer. You got to really look at buying something that works and not false positives.
Mike Kersey: Well I’d say on the financial side of it they were kind of going after – there is a wind of change. We started ours, of course as a state-level moving up and then now the federal level moving down and also trying to do these things. So there is recognition and grants available. How schools can use money were able to use it like that before. So there’s a lot of issues that are getting addressed that way, in ways to seek money. You can’t just really rely on one source. You really kind of have to collect from different resources in order to accomplish it. It’s got to come down to the priority of the community just how well protected you want to be. It’s not something that needs to be done overnight but a process. So set a goal and take time to achieve it.
Linda Chezem: I would encourage parents and law enforcement officials in wanting to take a look at how the dollars are being spent because there is money flowing to school districts for school safety. There is state money and federal money. I think it’s a fair question. Is that money being spent on what would be the most effective protection for the kids and the educators? And if you aren’t watching where your dollars are going, you won’t know the answer to that question. Indiana has a transparency portal and the grants and the money are all very available to see. And I encourage people looking – you’re the ones paying the taxes, chime in.
Christina McCale (host): To that point Mike I know you were talking a few seconds ago about it’s not an overnight thing. We did a webinar with Seattle Pacific University that had a school shooting on its campus and the school safety director talked about the fact that they had been planning and they had been adding features and adding infrastructure for the better part of 10 to 15 years. It was a process that they developed. So you’re absolutely right. It doesn’t happen overnight. It does take time – it certainly takes dollars –but it is certainly doable as well.
Audience Question: Linda, do most school – rural school districts have a hazard or safety plan. I know what we saw here on the webinar. But what’s your experience, what’s the research showing us? And why or why not?
Linda Chezem: I can’t say that most rural schools have a safety plan that includes shootings, acts of violence. Most rural schools, for example, in the Midwest have a safety plan for tornadoes. What we recognize as the fires, the tornadoes, the traditional hazards and so I’m thinking that probably the reason many that don’t have those plans just don’t think it’s going to happen there. You can see why. We’re a small community, we know our kids, we know our families, and everybody knows everybody. Our neighbors are not the problem. This may be also a resource issue too because the rural educators are asked to do so much. They are kind of the jack of all trades – they are expected to do a lot more than just teach in the classroom and so I’m guessing that it’s a combination of factors. Certainly, it would be good if there was a system available for them, consultant type assistance. I’m thinking back in my teaching days and yet 35 kids in the classroom and 1 of you. That’s why I went to law school. You really have a lot to manage in the classrooms.
Mike Kersey: I’m just going to add that voice of change can sometimes be unpopular and so if you’re that person in your community, don’t be afraid to step in and do so. You aren’t always going to be the most popular person in all circles that you try to make that change. If you talk to anyone that’s trying to create change either in Columbine or Parkland. My friend, they experienced the same type of things that being that voice of change or trying to change things outside the current paradigm. It’s either impossible you just going to have to sit with it and remain encouraged about what your goal is and why your mission is that.
Audience Question: Knowing that we have a lot of justice professionals on the call, if we’re not sure there are school districts have thoughts for their planning, how would you recommend the areas – whether you’re a sheriff’s officer, whether you’re local police department, how would you recommend that they approach the schools and to see what kind of help they should be offering?
Mike Kersey: Well, having traveled this road many times, I know how territorial certain areas can be in school safety. Everybody wants the best intention to do so. You got to be really cautious. Be sure that if the working relationship such as developing as one that you’re working together to improve and not so much one that you’re trying to take over to improve. And so the dialogue between everyone needs to be on the same page and clear defined goals of what you’re trying to achieve and then how you’re going to achieve and then work together on how to go about and realize that all of our egos are stopped at the door because the fact the reason why we’re here is to protect our children and our staff and our community. Be sure that everybody just set their egos back at the door and that will go a long way to accomplishing what you want to accomplish I think.
Audience Question: Don how much does the NetTalon system cost?
Don Jones: I would say we have a few data points to schools and then what we’re doing but you’re looking right around for the electronic piece of it, you’re looking about $315,000 for a 30-40 classroom school and then the doors are course classroom specifics so whether 20 or 30 doors – the doors are like $3900 and the protective space a little over $4000 so it’s right around the same price range.
Mike Kersey: To add to that, those don’t mind, sometimes the sticker price really jumps at you and what I say Don – and I don’t think he eluded to it, but some of the funding mechanisms of how that what actually equals out to per student changes that sticker price quite substantially.
Don Jones: It’s right around $15 – $1600 a child for everything – I mean ballistics in and the electronic piece. That’s what in. If you look at it, you’re educating at kids at $8,000 or so per student in Indiana.
Linda Chezem: I think that’s a good ballpark figure. I don’t have it in front of me right now
Don Jones: I think that’s it’s close. And so you’re looking at it at another $1500 – $1600 to provide a level of safety where you have a safe learning environment. Mike, you might talk about the fear that kids have now and Linda too. Trying to educate them because mass shootings have an effect on their ability to really – if they don’t feel safe they don’t really learn as well and that’s starting to play out here.
Mike Kersey: One thing that you’re talking about is the money that is invested per student and then you look at budget out over a period of time with that really equates to, it’s pretty minimal I know some of the studies that you have done Don that equates basically a Starbucks a week to do away with enough how you can fund something like this but there is a greater cost. If you think children are not going to school concerned about it, they’re not being able to go home at night, you’re very mistaken. Our relationships and the conversations that we’ve had with kids that are in protective spaces than those who are out of protective spaces that’s very indicative that is on their mind all the time if that’s going to happen and educators that are online will understand they’re in the safe environment, education can take place if they’re not distracted by the potential threat that exists. I’d say that the price we need to be looking at as well. What’s that worth to us?
Don Jones: To follow your point Mike, if you take that price per student, if you have a High School, Middle School and a couple of Elementary Schools, those schools are protected through the entire K to 12 education so, to Mike’s point, it reduces over the time the child’s in school.