On Monday, Feb. 26, Fort Zumwalt School District Superintendent Dr. Bernard DuBray and North High Principal Joe Sutton represented the district at an O’Fallon Police Department presentation where they watched as officers went through virtual training exercises set in two Fort Zumwalt high schools.
The presentation is one more layer in the collaboration between local law enforcement and the school district, and comes in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 students and teachers dead.
After the Florida school shooting, DuBray wrote a letter to Fort Zumwalt parents, staff and the community.
“Every time one of these situations takes place, we just shake our heads and wonder how this can continue happening,” an excerpt of DuBray’s letter reads. “While we can’t identify a definitive answer, we do know many of these tragedies are the result of individuals who are in crisis, feeling isolated or struggling with mental health issues. People ask, ‘What can we do to stop these senseless acts?’ While there are no guarantees that we will stop all such acts in the future, we can prepare ourselves to avoid any tragedies in our school district.”
On Friday, Feb. 23, DuBray joined fellow school superintendents from across the region to meet with police chiefs to discuss safety issues.
The following Monday, he was at the O’Fallon Police Department watching them practice active shooter responses to what he called “unthinkable situations” in a digitized Fort Zumwalt school setting.
DuBray noted that he and his staff are in constant contact with police departments and follow their training recommendations.
“It’s in the strength of these community partnerships that we can best protect our schools,” he wrote in the letter.
The complete letter is included below:
A letter from the Superintendent
Dear Parents and Staff,
In the weeks since 17 people lost their lives to a 19-year-old gunman in a Broward County, Florida High School, I have spoken with parents and staff, with law enforcement, Board of Education Members and our principals. I appreciate the phone calls and emails. Every time one of these situations takes place we just shake our heads and wonder how this can continue happening. While we can’t identify a definitive answer, we do know many of these tragedies are the result of individuals who are in crisis, feeling isolated or struggling with mental health issues. People ask, “What can we do to stop these senseless acts?” While there are no guarantees that we will stop all such acts in the future, we can prepare ourselves to avoid any tragedies in our school district.
I want to assure you that student and staff safety is regularly reviewed and always under discussion. Friday, I joined superintendents from across the region as we met with our police chiefs to discuss these issues. Today, I met with the O’Fallon Police Department and watched as two of their officers went through a new virtual training for these unthinkable situations. We are in constant contact with our police departments and follow their recommendations on best practices and preparedness training for our students and staff. It’s in the strength of these community partnerships that we can best protect our schools.
In addition, there are several layers of security in place at Fort Zumwalt schools. All of our schools have electronic locks that are monitored by staff in building offices. After the day starts, all of the doors are locked and visitors can only enter through the front door after buzzing the office and stating the reason for their presence. This is now also in place at our high schools. If a visitor’s reason is not valid, people should be, and have been, turned away. Our schools all have web-based security cameras. Police departments can access live-action broadcasts from cameras throughout the buildings. They can access this information at the police station or in the police car.
Middle schools and high schools, with their larger student populations, also have adult hall monitors walking the halls for extra student supervision and to ensure visitors are wearing visitor badges. Crisis counselors, who are master’s degree social workers, are available in these buildings for any issues that might come up requiring their special expertise, such as when students are concerned about a friend or want to report something that might be out of the ordinary. In addition, each high school has a full-time resource officer on site, who is a local police officer. With the larger amount of traffic coming and going from high schools each day, these schools also have gated parking lots. After the day starts, all gates are closed except for the entrance. Parking lot security guards stop visitors and radio the office for permission for these individuals to come to the main entrance where they must state their reason for visiting and be buzzed into the building.
I hope you get the sense from this information that the district has taken many measures to ensure student and staff safety. As we go forward, I believe we must continue to listen and to work together in our security efforts. We must listen and work together as well in our efforts to recognize those around us who might be in crisis, feel isolated or struggling with mental health issues and get them the professional assistance they need. In the meantime, you can be assured creating a safe learning environment is our top priority. Please do not hesitate to contact me or your building principal if you would like to discuss any of this information further.
Dr. Bernard J. DuBray