Friday, September 29, 2006

School Emergencies

In my work I've taken more than a passing interest in school-related violence and other incidents that affect schools in general. I have a binder full of reports and analyses of the Columbine massacre, and over the course of my career have tried to work diligently to remove barriers to the effective access to, and timely response of, public safety resources.

I won't join the speculative games being played by many regarding the tragedy at Platte Canyon High on Wednesday. I'll wait for the numerous after-action reports that will undoubtedly follow, and make my own judgments about the effectiveness of Incident Management and Communications at the scene and with incoming resources. Those are my areas of interest and focus, for which practical experience and history form a map of the unknown territory to come.

One related item caught my attention in yesterday's Daily Sentinel. I'll link to it here. The key line from this story about the student with the knife, and one that speaks volumes, is:

"Mesa County Valley School District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland said district disciplinary policies and procedures were being followed and would not comment further on the incident."

Really now? My guess is that the District is upset that a breath of this got out to the media in the first place. I'll bet they tried their darndest to keep this out of the public eye, and especially away from the parents at Pear Park, for as long as they could, and then stonewalled media inquiries about it.

This and other events over the years make me almost think that a long-standing hypothesis of mine may be slowly on the road to being proven. That is, schools react and respond to on-campus incidents with a significant amount of their collective mental energy focused on keeping the incident quiet and shaping the message, rather than just managing the incident.

Mr. Kirtland may indeed have a regulatory shroud (excuse) that prevents him from speaking about the incident. This does not do the parents of students or the public at large any good.
As the parent of a Grand Junction High School student, I expect disclosure of any incident that may affect the safety of the campus population, and attempts to simply and efficently communicate pertinent details to parents and other involved parties. I also expect that the district's emergency response plan will be diligently followed on any significant incident.

One more thing that is unfortunately necessary:

The opinions expressed in this weblog are solely my own as an individual and private citizen, and do not represent the opinion or policy of my family, my employer, or any other private or public entity that I am or have been affiliated or associated with.

Til we meet again soon.

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