The safety of our children is a top priority at Lamar High School. Recent national and local news have shown disturbing images from schools around the nation, reminding us all that we need to know how to respond in such a crisis. There are many ways the school has prepared itself. Using drills, simulations, trainings, visitor background checks, school police, and social workers, Lamar is focused on preparing, protecting, and providing for students during crises and helping parents and students who are in personal crisis.
School Security and Safety:
In addition to our two, full-time, licensed and armed peace officers, we have three other security personnel patrolling the property. They monitor 48 different video cameras around the campus and are in constant contact with the school administrative team by radio during the day, as well as at after-school events. All campus visitors must wear a visible temporary badge. During the badging process, drivers’ licenses are scanned and run through a sex offender database with confirmed offenders being escorted off campus. The police and security staff are a key part of our drills, security, and response actions, and the Houston Independent School District has an Emergency Preparedness Plan with information on how to handle 42 types of crises.
Lockdown and Shelter-in-Place Drills:
School lockdown drills are practiced for when there is the threat of violence or gunfire identified outside the building and an evacuation would be dangerous. A lockdown may also be called for when there is a threat inside and movement within the school could be dangerous and barriers such as locked doors would minimize the risk to occupants. The main difference between a Shelter-in-Place and a Lockdown is that the former may involve the shutdown of the HVAC systems, and may allow for the movement of students within the building. Lockdown procedures may also be initiated in non-threatening circumstances to keep people away from areas where there may be a medical emergency or disturbance. Teachers in classrooms respond to the drill by collecting any students from the hallways, turning off their lights, locking the classroom door, and moving students away from doors and windows. School personnel check the security cameras and hallways for movement and drill participation. The school remains very quiet until the ‘all clear’ announcement notifies everyone of the end of the drill. In the event of an actual emergency, parents would be notified using the school’s emergency call-out system. This would give them information about what has happened, what to do, where to go, and how to get more information. Information may also be provided via local media outlets, such as television and radio.
Regulations require a fire drill be conducted once a month, where students are directed by their teacher, administrators, and security personnel to move in a calm, orderly fashion out of the buildings and into designated refuge areas. After school personnel have checked the cameras, or after the fire department officials determine the buildings are ready to re-enter, students and staff members return to class. These frequent drills remind everyone how important it is to secure their students, classrooms, and records. They do all of this while the alarms blare and the hallways become busy.
Mental Health Counseling:
Lamar has been at the forefront of student mental health resources. Partnering with Community in Schools, (click here to see a brochure http://cishouston.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/205944-CIS-BrochEng.pdf), the school maintains two licensed social workers, a licensed chemical dependency counselor, and other health professionals who assist children with their mental and emotional dilemmas. A full-time, licensed nurse is on campus to assist students with their physical health as well. Located in the Student Support Center, students can be referred to a social worker by administration, teachers, parents, and peers, or walk-in to be seen by a health professional. Lamar High School recognizes that today’s children are dealing with complex family, financial, and emotional issues and the school has taken steps to make sure children can find the help they need to make wise decisions.
It’s impossible to avoid every crisis situation, but it is possible to respond to crisis through planning, preparation, practice, police protection, and mental health resources. Lamar High School knows that the safety of its students and staff is important and is taking steps to make sure we’re always striving to be our best and practicing for the very worst.