The eyes on our children
Communication is key in almost any human connection, and that is no different for students in school. Especially, if there is an emergency situation on the school’s hands.
After recent events during a school shooting in Florida, many schools have had added conversations with students, parents, staff members, and their communities to ensure safety and, of course, open communication regarding their safety tactics.
And that is no exception for Blue Earth Area or United South Central, Faribault County’s two school districts.
Both BEA and USC emphasize having good communication between students, staff, faculty, and parents is important in emergency situations.
“There are a great many benefits to the technology that we have available in our schools with regards to communication in those emergencies,” said Blue Earth Area High School principal Rich Schneider. “For example, if there were ever an emergency the school would need to know about from the local police or sheriff’s department, we get immediate response on our cell phones and computers at the school. And the cameras we have installed in our schools police have real time access to those cameras.”
BEA’s school system also has limited access to doors, as well as having all adults wearing badges or IDs as well as all visitors wearing identification. Students who are not in their classrooms are signed in and out of the school as well.
“There are a lot of checks and balances that we have in place to make sure we have a good idea of what is going on in our schools at all times,” said Superintendent Dr. Evan Gough. “But there is another key component to our school and that is building important relationships with our students.”
The Blue Earth Area School District’s school resource officer (SRO), Deputy D.J. Bullerman, is one of those important relationships students have at the school.
Bullerman has been BEA’s SRO for four years and in those four years, Bullerman has been working hard at building rapport and relationships with students.
“For younger kids, it is important that they see me as someone they can talk to. Someone that isn’t there to intimidate or get them in trouble, but someone who can help,” says Bullerman.
One of his favorite components of his job at the elementary school is sharing lunch with the students, also known as “lunch with a bunch.”
“It gives students the opportunity to ask questions and get to know me, and of course, for me to get to know them,” he says.
Bullerman is also trained in Echo 3, a type of evacuation system in place for victims of mass violence. The bedrock of this training program is based around the three E’s: Enter, Evaluate, and Evacuate.
He says the training is very similar to a sister program known as ALICE, which USC uses in emergencies. ALICE?stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
Both of the programs are made for large community buildings such as schools, hospitals, and community living buildings.
Now that he has established himself a bit, he is seeing students who were in elementary school move to the high school, and that rapport that Bullerman has built with students is carrying over into high school.
“The students see me in the high school and know who I am, and we have that basis of ‘I’m not here to get you in trouble,?I’m here to help.'”
“It is always nice to have DJ’s expertise,” says Schneider. “He has been a very important person for our school district, and we are thankful for the work that he does with our students.”
Another portion BEA focuses on is conversation.
“We are always emphasizing, ‘if you hear something, say something,’ and ‘don’t be a victim if you don’t have to be’ in regards to school safety,” says Gough.
BEA has a safety hotline number both on the school’s website and the Faribault County Sheriff’s website, but they also state that even if people do not know the hotline numbers, they can call 9-1-1.
As for the elementary school, there is always a different type of atmosphere for young minds and hearts, and Blue Earth Elementary School principal, Melissa McGuire, says there are different ways of communicating to children in an emergency.
“For us, it is always about listening to the adult. The adult is in charge and students need to follow what that staff member says. The staff member or faculty member is given that responsibility,” says McGuire.
When it comes to students with disabilities, whether physical, mental, or emotional, McGuire says the BEA school district works hard at, again, building important relationships between staff and their students.
“Our paraprofessionals build important relationships with our students who have disabilities. Each paraprofessional has a responsibility to their student, and are given charge of their care in an emergency situation,” says McGuire.
Besides these tactics, both BEA and USC practice lockdown drills and go over appropriate scenarios with the appropriate age groups.
“There are state-mandated drills, and we adhere to all of those practices,” says Gough. “It is state statute, so of course, we are going to follow that and keep up to date with it.”
“It is very important that we have a pulse on what is happening in the building,” says Schneider. “When it comes to hearing about a situation where the safety of someone could be compromised, we follow up immediately. We do interviews with students, parents, and other law enforcement to ensure our schools are safe for everyone.”