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Safety and security at Reading High strengthened with 5-point framework, officials say

The safety and security of Reading High School has improved since administrators implemented a five-point framework that helps focus and guide operations at the school, officials said.

“Our building is running pretty smooth,” Jessica Di Blasi, high school principal, told the school board at a recent meeting. “We have had a significant decrease in our overall incidents in the building compared this time to last year, and even compared to the last quarter.”

The framework was developed last year and is based on feedback from students, their families and staff, she said.

The five buckets, or focus areas, are safe and supportive schools; academics, high expectations for all students, and quality interactions and collaboration in the classroom; beautifying the building and showing school pride; developing a parent advisory council; and setting clear expectations, offering support and holding individuals accountable.

Communication is focused on setting clear expectations, offering support and holding students individually accountable, Di Blasi said.

“It’s having those high expectations and letting the kids know that these are the rules and this is what we’re expecting,” she said, “and then the accountability piece, but also doing it in a supportive restorative manner.”

Concerns about the safety and security of the students, faculty and staff escalated in 2002 after a knife and toy gun were taken from students in the high school and again last year after a 16-year-old student took a loaded gun to school.

The latter incident resulted in the city police taking two juveniles into custody and charging them.

In response, school administrators instituted a fortified safety plan, which called for the increased presence of Safe School officers, or SSOs, in the high school’s hallways, among other measures.

Safety in the hallways has improved, Di Blasi said, noting students are carrying hallway passes and the SSOs are interacting well with students to achieve compliance with behavioral expectations in the hallways.

“If the students don’t have a pass, and if they’re in the hallway without permission, we’re providing academic support and intervention,” Di Blasi said. “So that’s been working well and also creating a sense of belonging for everybody in the building.”

There are 23 members of the high school’s safe schools team, including 19 SSOs, said Carl Britt, director of safe schools.

“At the high school, our top priority continues and will always be the security and well-being of all students throughout the school day, which is essential for their learning and academic achievement,” Britt said.

His team is invested in the safety and betterment of all the schools in the district, Britt noted.

“We are continuing to look at all facets of safety that are working together to protect everybody in the building,” he said.

Actions taken include using weapons scanners for screening to minimize the threat of an incident of gun-related violence, he said.

“We also are conducting random searches to foster a weapon- and drug-free environment,” Britt said.

His team is reinforcing the locking of exterior doors, he said, and the policy of not propping open doors with messages posted on windows and doors. The messages are aimed at staff and are a reminder to make sure doors are closed and locked appropriately, he said.

Britt said he is working to set up a crisis communication tool that can be used for mass alert messaging in an emergency. The system will be piloted at the high school in the next few months before being rolled out throughout the district’s buildings.

The safety director said he also is conducting a districtwide safety audit to highlight successes and challenges related to the creation of safe and constructive environments that foster positive culture and climate in the schools.

Additionally, Britt has developed a plan and procedures for the successful reunification of students with their families in an crisis or evacuation and plans to conduct tabletop and live exercises. The plan was crafted in collaboration with community partners, he noted, and strengthens the district’s partnerships with the police, fire and rescue services and medical providers.


Source: Berkshire mont

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