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Group learns about Stillwater Public Schools' proactive mental health approach to safety

Stillwater NewsPress - 12/3/2018

Dec. 02--Attendees walked away satisfied Tuesday after learning what Stillwater Public Schools is doing to keep kids safe.

A handful of people gathered at Salem Lutheran Church to hear what guest speaker Superintendent Marc Moore had to say about school safety during a monthly meeting for the recently formed Stillwater chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America.

"We know there is never going to be a situation where we can protect everyone in every situation but we do think we can mitigate risk," Moore said.

Visitors now having to be buzzed in at all school sites and the district administration office is one recent change.

In the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead in February, Moore and the Board of Education decided school safety needed to be addressed at every board meeting.

"It takes a comprehensive approach," Moore said. "It's not just about fixing one thing."

Mental health professionals have helped the district with threat assessment of some students and the district hired a high-needs counselor a few years ago.

"Honestly, we feel that is our best prevention against some kind of violent act," Moore said. "When we feel like there is a threat...we have the chance to intervene."

The district also decided to spend $30,000 to hire Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, to do a four-day assessment in September.

Trump said then that the goal was to work toward risk reduction.

"What are your schools doing to reduce the risk"... and "how well prepared are they to manage something that can't be prevented," Trump said.

Moore shared some of the findings from the assessment with the group.

He said the three school resource officers and the relationships they build with students, staff and parents is very important.

Having back-up generators, access to high-needs counselors and creating a district-wide comprehensive school emergency plan were all key takeaways.

"I was very impressed and pleased to hear what the district is doing and planning to do," said Sally Houck, pastor at Salem Lutheran Church.

Diane Tipling, who has two daughters at Stillwater High School, is an active member the Stillwater chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, which is part of Everytown for Gun Safety.

"I've been personally distressed by school shootings," Tipling said. "Newtown really hit me in the gut and then to watch what I felt was not really a response from the leaders of our country. I felt we've got to do something."

Now she is working to attract others to the organization and its cause.

"They are not anti-Second Amendment...but definitely are for gun sense legislation that would try to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people," Tipling said. "They are for universal background checks and closing loopholes in the background check system. Until I got involved in this group I didn't know that two-thirds of gun related deaths were suicides. This killed me to find out that firearms are the second leading cause of death for American children. That just seems wrong. I'm not anti-gun but I am for anti-gun violence. I am for protecting people's lives."

Twitter: @dbittonNP


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