Saturday, September 30, 2006

More School Safety, Community in the Internet Age, Banned Books

A bit of a rough evening at home, combined with some intriguing information that is coming out about the Platte Valley incident, led me to burn the midnight oil and get some things out of my head. This blog is primarily an outlet, not necessarily for my frustrations, but more to give the ideas that collect while doing other things a chance to get out before they get lost. Jan is now asleep and Evan is home from the Ice Rink (what a Godsend for our kids), so now it's time.

School District 51 deserves a bit of credit for allowing one of their High School administrators to appear on KKCO at 5:30 this evening. While the story and the video have yet to be linked to their site, I can say that the guy made some sense about the district's efforts to resolve emergency planning issues, and whatever security measures that may need changed in the wake of school incidents around the country this week. No closed captioning, which is typical, but that's for another day.

KKCO also put a poll on their website about the need to upgrade school security, which I'd like to say from the forefront will likely involve less serious technical hardware and more training in response procedures, communication skills, and planning. While we're mentioning local media, kudos to the Montrose Daily Press for a well-written article about school safety planning in Montrose County.

This relates to something that is a professional and personal anchor for me. There are three components that must be satisfactorily addressed to achieve a "best practice" in any discipline. These are Technology, Processes, and People. These are like the three legs of a stool; if one leg is weak or isn't there, the stool is not going to stand for long.

For example, the act of installing closed circuit cameras around the perimeter of a high school building is not enough to enhance the safety and security of the campus. There must also be persons trained to monitor the cameras, and report noteworthy activity to police and/or school security personnel. Processes for responding to suspicious and/or emergency situations must be developed, and all personnel must be oriented to those processes and trained as to their responsibilities during routine and emergency conditions. This includes the student body, the surrounding community, and public safety responders.

Operations plans that include emergency response need to be living, dynamic documents, integrated into the daily fabric of how a school, or any other organization, routinely functions. An emergency plan is not just something that is pulled from a shelf and has the dust blown off of it whenever there is a drill, or God forbid when the actual emergency occurs.

Openness and effective communication contribute greatly to the development and maintenance of an operating posture that is more assured and certain of its' objectives, which in part helps to define security.

Additional coverage of the Platte Valley incident in Friday's Rocky Mountain News brought attention to a community Internet resource that played a key role in making sure that the residents of the Bailey area had access to credible information, and could communicate with their neighbors to share information. The Pinecam website is owned by the mountain communities along US 285. Several emergency situations in this general area over the last few years have turned Pinecam into a community resource for information sharing.

There are now similar community Internet pages available to most of the communities in Metro Denver and Colorado Springs through the site. This site is administered by the Denver Newspaper Agency (publishers of both the Rocky and the Post), and serves major cities not only in Colorado but several other states as well, with a local newspaper or media outlet serving as the local host. I inquired a few months back if Grand Junction could be included in the yourhub system, and was told that any media outlet can host it. Memo to the Sentinel and the Free Press; this might be worth checking into.

One final note; I found out late that this past week was designated as Banned Books Week by the American Library Association. I coincidentally stopped into the Central Library today to check out their remodeling; they've done an impressive job creating more space with the limited funds available to them. I won't get into that too much, other than to wonder out loud what's going to happen to all that empty space in the 500 blocks of Ouray and Chipeta.

While I didn't see that much about Banned Books Week at the library today, it is nonetheless something important to remember. When I was a junior in High School in 1976, the nearby Montour School District banned from its' libraries the first of John Jakes' series of historical novels about the American Revolution, timed with the Bicentennial celebration. This volume was (perhaps inelegantly) titled The Bastard, and it appeared that the only thing the board had a problem with was the title itself. Like many banned books, 30 years later it and the remainder of the series are considered excellent examples of contemporary fiction. The school district appears to still be concerned with style over substance. Last year they were the ones who brought in Dick Butkus and ESPN to turn their High School's football season into Reality TV.

As with emergency planning and accountability to the community, openness and communication with regard to information and creativity must remain a benchmark of our country if we have any chance of remaining competitive in an increasingly connected world. We must remain diligent when it comes to helping our children understand this information, but there is a big difference between diligence and censorship, and isolationism does us no favors, here or abroad. If the Internet isn't maintained as the neutral, increasingly ubiquitous information gateway that it has become, then we risk inviting the same thinking that fueled the imaginations of George Orwell and Ray Bradbury so many years ago.

Jan is up and can't remember where she put her hearing aid. Time to help her look, and prepare for another day.

God's blessings to all of you.


jovial_cynic said...

Hey - thanks for using my Blogger's Rights mini-banner on your site. Since my site is under a Creative Commons License, could you please provide some attribution somewhere, maybe in a post? I'd appreciate it - thanks!

John Linko said...

Will do. Thanks for allowing the use.


sally said...

Well, well, well. I see that you aven't lost your affinity for the political gift of gab! In case you are wondering, this is Sally (from the Ross/West View EMS days). I've been looking for you for a while; hoping you might be interested in having conversation again. My email is or at work Please write! Sal