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School safety practices are neither wasteful nor fearmongering

Nov 7, 2013 - Brent Nyberg, Assistant principal, Riverton Middle School

Editor:

This letter is written in response to Mr. Finley's Oct. 31 criticism of Riverton Middle School's lockdown practice. As always, we appreciate the feedback.

The procedure to which Mr. Finley referred is something our district has carefully researched and practiced. It is part of a larger crisis plan that we take very seriously, as should everyone involved. In this day and age one can't rule out a weapons-related incident happening on any campus.

It is ironic that on the very day Mr. Finley's letter appeared in the Ranger, Rendezvous Elementary, Jackson Elementary and our central office had to implement our crisis plan due to reported gunfire in a nearby neighborhood.

Change is difficult but a necessity to help reduce the chances of tragedies occurring. School fire protection procedures and regulations saw major reforms after a 1958 fire in Chicago killed 92 children and three staff. Despite pushback, these reforms have been very successful. There has not been a loss of life in a school fire since. You may recall that last year we had a fire at the high school. We're pleased that the drills so diligently practiced over the years worked exactly as they should have.

Tragedies such as Columbine and Sandy Hook now drive school safety reform. In the past five years there have been 85 school shootings involving 97 attackers that have received national media attention. Consider the fatal event at Casper College last year, and throw in the number of daily incidents involving students bringing, or planning to bring, weapons to school to further understand why we take our practice so seriously.

One of the key components of our crisis plan is the involvement of our school resource officers. Mr. Finley was extremely critical of their presence in our school. Perhaps he doesn't understand the importance of their role. Having received national recognition and numerous awards for their work here in District 25, our SROs are experts in making sure our students are as safe as possible. Through the classes they teach and counseling they provide, our SROs build relationships with students and defuse potential problems. The SROs don't like to discuss their accolades, so few community members realize just how fortunate Riverton is have them, not "four minutes away," but actually working in our buildings with our kids each and every day.

Schools remain very safe places to be. Our lockdown practice is not about creating "lock boxes," "fear mongering," "wasting taxpayer money," or reviving the "gestapo." Rather, it is our best attempt to prepare for a potential situation that we pray never happens.

We appreciate Mr. Finley's concern. If parents would like to discuss our crisis plan in greater depth, a parent group meets monthly. Our next meeting is at 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at Riverton Middle School. All middle school parents, as well as any interested community members, are invited to attend.

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