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Transitioning back to school safely

Submitted by The Douglas County School District

The number one priority of the Douglas County School District (DCSD) is the safety of our students and staff. We understand that if our students and staff are not safe, nothing else matters. When we say safety, we mean it in the broadest sense. We mean physical, psychological and online safety.

In the spring of 1999, our concept of and our responsibilities regarding school safety changed dramatically with the tragic events at Columbine High School. In December 2012, our education world, our paradigms, and our leadership responsibilities to our students, staff, and parents were tested once again with the unspeakable events in Newtown, Connecticut. Just as Douglas County did following the tragic events in 1999, the District stepped forward in 2012 with one of the strongest school safety responses and plans in the nation.

DCSD is a national leader regarding the physical safety of our students and student-athletes as it relates to head trauma and concussions. We have a nationally-recognized head trauma team that works with nurses, support staff, athletic trainers, coaches, and more throughout our district regarding the dangers of head trauma and concussions. We train playground supervisors, health assistants, and many other staff members who may come upon a head trauma situation so that they know exactly how to handle the situation in a way that is best for our students and staff. This is just the beginning of our leadership in this important area.

Beyond the physical safety of our students and staff, we understand and are equally committed to their psychological safety. Psychological safety for students and staff is realized when our schools proactively take steps to limit the risk of injury to the psychological and emotional well-being of students and staff.

“A comprehensive psychological safety plan includes prevention, intervention, mental health, security, and crisis preparedness,” said DCSD Chief Student Advocacy Officer Jason Germain. “Our psychological safety goals include creating a culture of safety, integrating and implementing the psychological safety and wellness framework (bullying prevention, suicide prevention and violence prevention), creating student and staff understanding through learning opportunities, and evaluating and refining our community partnerships.”

Fortunately, DCSD has extraordinary professionals who personalize learning for students and who give us the opportunity to lead in this area – to build a model for school-based mental health for the nation.

“We are working tirelessly to maximize physical, psychological, and online safety for our students, staff, and community,” Germain continued. “To this end, we will continue to evaluate and refine the physical safety of our learning environments, collaborate with all schools to create a system-wide culture that prioritizes and values psychological safety and wellness, and refine our student online safety and data privacy practices.”

Our new plan does not rest on the excellence of our past, but aspires to be a model of safety for the future.

“I think Douglas County is doing a tremendous job. The safety team that is assembled at the district level is one of the best in the country. They’re very deliberate, contemplative and then active in their training.

– John Michael Keyes, founder and director of the I Love You Foundation



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