Letters to the Editor
The Mid-county Memo is your newspaper. We want to hear from you. Discuss an important issue, respond to a request for comment or address a concern you want to call to the attention of the community. Letters to the editor will always be edited for space, style, grammar and issues of clarity. Please include your full name and identify the neighborhood in which you reside. We prefer e-mailed letters to the editor sent to Darlene Vinson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “Letter to the editor” in the subject line. You may also mail your letter to 3510 N.E. 134th Ave., Portland, OR 97230. Deadline for the May issue is Sunday, April 15.
Parkrose community and student safety
Dear Parkrose Community:
The superintendent, administration, associations and board of education of the Parkrose School District are sending you this communication because we need to make sure that you know what we as a school district are doing to keep our students and employees safe. The violence in our schools today is unprecedented in American history. Wednesday, Feb. 14 of this year, 17 students and adults were shot and killed in Parkland, Florida by a former student. Friday, April 20, we will commemorate the 19th anniversary of the shootings at Columbine.
We want to tell you about what we are doing and will do to keep staff and students safe in Parkrose. These safety measures we take and will implement are as follows:
- Every school has a large array of security cameras. The state-of-the-art cameras record digitally in real time and save the footage for a certain amount of time should it need reviewing. We have installed safety doors in our schools that can only be opened by the inside and need a key from the outside. We have installed buzzers outside each school and the district office such that no one can enter our schools once the school day has begun except by using the outside buzzer and being let in from the inside. A camera is posted beside the buzzer so that the person inside can see who wants to enter. In most schools, you cannot get into the school or building without first going through an office. Our phones can do an all-call throughout the building to alert people to danger. Some schools have public address systems that do the same thing. You must use a district-issued swipe card to get into any of our schools. Finally, by the end of this year, every elementary school will have an outside speaker system such that announcements and warnings can be heard outside. Three of our four elementary schools are already outfitted, and Sacramento is the last school to have this installed.
- Our students practice drills. We are required by law to do a fire drill each month and earthquake drills twice a year. We also do a Lock In/Lock Down drill twice per semester and a Lock Out drill twice per semester. Students are taught that if they are outside and not near a classroom to run from the school and return only if the adult that is with them feels it is safe to do so. The fact is that in no case of a school shooting has a locked classroom been breached by an assailant. They are not “sitting ducks,” as some have said. That is not true. Students are safer inside the locked-down classroom than outside the classroom.
- Relationships with our students. In the Parkrose School District, we are a restorative justice district. When things go wrong between students, we seek to restore the relationships. We work hard to not expel our students unless we absolutely have no other choice. It is when students feel ostracized, outcast and bullied that they want to retaliate against the school, and we work hard to not let that happen. We investigate every situation that comes to our attention, and we are thorough in our policies and procedures. We have instituted the best threat assessment system in the state. (If you would like to review this system, e-mail the superintendent and we will connect you with the document.) We must develop genuine relationships with all our students and make sure that they know that we care and are empathetic to their struggles. When people feel loved, they do not wish to do harm to others.
- We do not agree with arming teachers in the Parkrose School District. We do not believe that there is any advantage of this for Parkrose, nor does it make sense to have more guns in the schools. We believe that it could bring further death or injury to our students and staff and that it will heighten fear and anxiety. Our priority is to protect the safety of our students and our staff.
In the meantime, let’s all keep our eyes and ears open. Please alert an administrator if you see or hear anything suspicious. Let’s all continue to communicate with love and care with our students and staff so that we can keep each other safe.
Karen F. Gray, Superintendent Parkrose School District/Administrative Team
Board of Education of the Parkrose School District
Brett Davidson, President of the Parkrose Faculty Association
Richard Doyle, President of the Oregon School Employees Association, Parkrose