As we prepare for the start of school on Tuesday, September 4, I am asking all families to set aside time this weekend to discuss school safety with your child, regardless of age. Our students, especially, need to be reminded of their role in keeping our schools safe.
District offices were closed part of this week to allow our full staff time to participate in safety-related trainings that focused on a range of related topics from making students feel more welcome to responding to a school violence event. Throughout the school year, and as a follow-up to these trainings, students will have multiple opportunities to participate actively in drills that go beyond the traditional fire alarm evacuation. Please, advise your child to expect these modified drills and offer reassurance that being calm and feeling prepared is essential.
Principals will notify families in advance of these planned drills, and we expect to continue our routine of emailing parents in the moment if school operations are disrupted due to safety concerns. As has been our practice, should a concern be presented that we believe warrants further review by our local police, we will not hesitate to initiate a threat assessment.
In your conversations this weekend, please stress to your child that disturbing behavior is not taken lightly, whether that behavior comes in the form of gestures and/or word that is written or spoken. "I was just kidding" is not a valid excuse when what was said triggers police involvement. When a threat (verbal, written, or gesture) is perceived, our local police officers conduct site inspections and interviews and generally perform home visits as part of their threat assessment.
Similarly, please, also discuss with your child the other side of reckless communication. As we are all aware, the news has provided numerous examples beyond school shootings that reference individual students in crisis who have inflicted self harm after feeling rejected at school. Each of our schools is staffed with a minimum of three school counselors and one social worker. Please, encourage your child to reach out if he/she is feeling alienated.
We appreciate your cooperation and commitment to working with District staff to promote safety for ALL. As always, you should not hesitate to contact me directly should you have a question and/or concern.
Dr. Nancy Hines
Penn Hills School District Superintendent
(412)793-7000, ext 1282