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School safety topic of discussion at parent-teacher convention

School safety is one of the biggest topics of discussion among educators. It was one of the main areas of focus for the annual Parent-Teacher Association convention in Pocatello on Friday.

One of the state’s responses to try and help with school safety concerns was establishing the Office of School Safety and Security.

Guy Bliesner, a school safety analyst with the office, said that when it comes to safety concerns, it’s about more than just a guy with a gun entering a school. There are a lot of other safety components that must be taken into consideration.

“We know that a bullying incident is more likely to lead to an emergency in a school than say faulty wiring,” said Representative Wendy Horman, state representative for Idaho Falls, district 30. “And so, it’s critical that we modernize our thinking about what keeps our schools, our students, our teachers safe.”

That’s when Horman introduced legislature to create the school safety and security office.

The goal of it is to assess any and all safety concerns at a school. Does the PA system work properly? How are chemicals disposed of in science class? What are the school’s emergency protocols? And of course, could an unknown stranger easily get into the school?

Bliesner said when a study was originally done to assess safety measures to now, he is finding that there are some better procedures in place than there used to be.

“Part of that assessment is that attempt to enter the building, find out what an intruder would see,” said Bliesner. “So we’re finding that perimeters are becoming tighter, people are much more aware of that process than in years past.”

The safety office also provides the necessary training and expertise for schools.

The focus at the PTA convention was how can PTA members, parents and community members help? The best answer is to cooperate with local school policies, even if it seems difficult.

“Security is on one side, convenience is on the other,” Bliesner said. “The more of you have of one, the necessary less of the other is the result. That school community balance – if your school community has chosen to balance with everybody checking in, accept that. Expect that that’s what you do in a school and then follow the rules.”

The reports done by the safety office are protected documents. Only superintendents and school administrators at the school assessed see the full results.

Only data, not detailed information about each school, is reported back to the state legislature.

The goal of the safety office is to evaluate one-third of schools in Idaho each year.

Horman said she hopes that the information collected by the office will help the legislature to determine if there are any more steps the state can take to further improve safety.

The recommendations made the by school safety office are also just that – recommendations. The office has no authority to enforce any changes or safety procedures they might feel are necessary at schools. It just hopes to work with local districts to better develop emergency plans, and point out potential vulnerabilities in schools.

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