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INFORMATIONAL LETTER: 48
TO: Superintendents of Schools, Private School Administrators and School Principals
FROM: Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner of Education
DATE: November 15, 2006
SUBJECT: Ensuring Safety in Our Schools – Response to Security Concerns and Visitor Access
In Informational Letter # 30 Ensuring Safety in Our Schools – Adequate Planning and Effective Information Exchange, October 3, 2006, I stated “…we are faced with acts of school violence in other states that remind us yet again how important our task is to remain vigilant and committed to reviewing and practicing all of the components of our individual school crisis management plans.”
The Department of Education and the Maine Emergency Management Agency have been meeting jointly to identify key elements of Mitigation and Preparation that should be incorporated into school Crisis and Response Plans. While this planning was in process, the Lewiston Sun Journal sent a group of reporters to several central Maine schools to check the ease of access. They found that in nearly every school visited, a period of time elapsed before anyone in the school noted or questioned their presence. This, in light of the numerous incidents of life-threatening and dangerous behavior in schools throughout the country, reinforces the immediate need for a greater focus on school safety and security with monitored access to our schools.
The Department of Education and the Maine Emergency Management Agency, meeting jointly, identified the following key elements of Mitigation and Preparation that should be incorporated into school Crisis and Response Plans.
These include the following:
Keep in mind that security measures take more time until they become part of the daily school culture. Moreover, principals play a key role in establishing and maintaining a security conscious environment and they need to ask the question: “What makes the students in our school vulnerable and what actions need to be taken to keep our students safe?”
These are just a few of the steps that schools can take to improve and enhance school security. Please refer to Informational Letter # 30 (October 3, 2006) for an extensive list of resources available to schools in the form of information, guides and reports. I recommend that you work with your staff, local law enforcement officials, first responders and emergency preparedness personnel as you plan for ensuring student safety.
Finally, as part of an over-all campaign to muster state agencies to assist SAUs, the Department of Education, the Maine Emergency Management Agency and the Fire Marshal’s Office have planned an upcoming training and awareness program for school officials and first responders to be held on November 28, 2006. The program will focus on All Hazards Planning with special attention on Mitigation, Prevention, Response and Recovery. This is in addition to the November 15, 2006 web cast.
The session is designed for local teams of 3-4 people to include Superintendents of Schools and/or School Resource Officers and representatives of local emergency management agencies such as Police, Fire, and County Emergency Management Directors. The format for the program will include informational sessions addressing “The Value of Local Emergency Responders to the Planning Process,” and “What Does a Good All Hazards Plan Look Like Including Community Based Teaming, All Hazards Analysis, and Community and School Walk Around.” There will be ample time devoted to Table Talks such as addressing possible hazards scenarios and brainstorming solutions.
To pre-register, please fax the attached form to Nancy Bonenfant at (207) 624-6731 by November 22, 2006, or for more information about the program please contact Harvey Boatman by email email@example.com or phone 624- 6884 or Edwin N. Kastuck, Ph.D., by email edwin.kastuck@Maine.gov or by phone 624-6776.
I encourage you to pre- register right away for this very important next step in ensuring safety in our schools.
Attachment: Registration Form
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