Safety and Security in our Schools and Campuses
February 26, 2018
Dear Manheim Township Families,
I am writing to you with updated, detailed information about three important topics relating to safety and security in our district schools and campuses.
Re: District Safety Measures: Last week after the tragic events occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, we provided you with a letter offering suggestions for how to help your students understand and process the catastrophic information heard through media, peers, and in general dialogue. We also shared during our most recent board meeting that Manheim Township School District maintains a comprehensive safety and security plan, including safety protocols that are routinely practiced and reviewed with students and staff. Our schools are equipped with safety monitoring equipment both inside and outside of the buildings. We hope you had the opportunity to speak with your students after receiving our letter, and that they offered information about their experiences with the safety drills and feeling secure in the school buildings.
A week later, as we continue to hear about threats being made to schools, some of which are copycat behaviors, our hearts are heavy recognizing the severity of what is happening in our country. Providing our students and staff with a safe and conducive learning environment is of utmost importance to our district. You entrust us with your students every day; please know that their safety in the buildings and school campuses remains our top priority.
Prior to the most recent incidents of violence in our nation’s schools, a select team of elementary, intermediate, and secondary level administrators attended an intensive hands-on training to prepare for an active shooter situation. This training program focuses on specific safety behaviors designed to teach skills and strategies that bridge the gap between the time a violent event begins and law enforcement arrives. We are currently creating a professional development plan for this active shooter training for staff and students throughout the district, in addition to our other regular monthly safety drills. Ongoing reviews of our operations, facilities, and safety and security measures constantly occur, and are often discussed during monthly Safety Committee Meetings involving school and district administrators and staff, and members of the Manheim Township Police, Manheim Township Fire Department, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). All Manheim Township school buildings have a safety and security plan, with evacuation and parent reunification procedures in the event of an emergency. For safety reasons, we are unable to make the safety plan and evacuation procedures public in order to keep the protocols confidential. We will continue to promote safety and security in all of our schools and campuses, maintaining a close, positive working relationship with the Manheim Township Police Department. This close working relationship provides armed officers in our schools, whose visibility and support for school safety is paramount during these times.
Re: National Student Walkout Day: A national initiative that involves a large-scale student “walkout” of schools is planned for Wednesday, March 14. This national initiative calls for students to “walk out” of schools and demand that local legislators take action to make schools safer. Multiple dates for the protests have been planned across the country, with March 14 being the first of two dates. In our commitment to promoting safety in our schools and campuses, we are dialoguing with our secondary level students so administrators are prepared and can plan for the possibility of a student-led “walkout” on Wednesday, March 14. If our secondary level students choose to “walk out” to advocate for safer schools, we will support their freedom of speech while ensuring it is done safely and respectfully as part of a learning process. Thus, the school administration is meeting with students to plan for the safety measures necessary for the event. Recognizing that such a “walkout” would involve secondary level students, we also acknowledge that students at the intermediate level may understand the purpose behind the event and choose to organize and participate in a walkout at Landis Run. We are preparing for this as well, again, to ensure safety for all students. We are not anticipating a student walkout at the elementary level (kindergarten-fourth grade) since they are too young to fully comprehend or understand the premise behind exerting First Amendment rights. Protecting their safety will involve keeping all students in their classrooms and following the daily schedule. Parent communication to our elementary families will be forthcoming about this day.
We recognize our families may have conflicting opinions about students participating in a “walkout” as a legally protected action; we respect your opinions and encourage you to talk with your student about your personal beliefs as a parent. School and district administrators are dialoguing with our students to make certain any plan is fully disclosed in advance so we can ensure their environment is safe and secure.
Re: Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.): We value the use of social media as a means to provide information to our students and families. If you or your student hear or see anything that could cause harm to our students or staff, please call the local police or school administration. In order to ensure social media is used to communicate accurate information, we ask that all students and parents refrain from sharing, retweeting, or reposting information, pictures, or video on social media without any verification regarding its accuracy. It is imperative that the use of social media does not create mass hysteria by posting inaccurate information, rumors, or unverified information/photos/video. Please monitor your students’ social media accounts, and talk with them about civility and respect, and appropriate discourse.
As we continue to hear about school shootings and violence in the media, it reinforces the need for us to be vigilant about safety and immediately report to local law enforcement any suspicious activity in and around our school buildings. We encourage you to have conversations at home as well regarding safety at school and other locations. Please know our staff is dedicated to supporting you and your family, and offering information about resources that may be useful to you. As a community, it is imperative that we work together to ensure the well-being and safety of everyone.
Thank you for your ongoing support during these challenging times.
Dr. Robin L. Felty
Superintendent of Schools