February 21, 2018
Dear East Penn Community,
I know we share the same feelings of shock, sadness, fear, and frustration in the wake of the school shooting tragedy in Parkland, Florida. While it is difficult to come up with the right words of comfort as you send your children off to school each day, please be assured that school safety is, and has always been, our number one priority. Here is what we have in place in East Penn School District.
- Student Assistance Program (SAP): a student, staff, and community referral system utilizing trained/certified professionals who identify available supports and resources for students in crisis
- Communities in Schools (CIS): a new service at EHS for the identification and referral for students suffering from mental health issues
- District Tip Line: an anonymous phone line service for those wishing to report concerns regarding drugs, alcohol, weapons, and violent or dangerous acts
- Building Level Quick Response Teams: a team of staff at each building trained to respond to emergencies
- Guidance Counselors: trained professional(s) at each building who provide services to students and families
- Outside Student Placements: students who cannot be educated in EPSD placed at facilities including Behavioral Health Association, Lehigh Learning Academy, and Allentown Learning and Achievement School
- School Resource Officer at EHS: a full-time armed police officer trained to work proactively with students and staff
- Emmaus Police Department and PA State Police: close partnerships established between police and administration, staff, students and parents at each school
- Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) Training: all district staff have been trained on strategies, guidance, and a proven plan for surviving an active shooter event
- CRASE drills: tabletop mock scenarios for staff conducted at each building during first half of 2017-18, evolving into drills for students to be conducted during second half of 2017-18
- School entrances: all doors locked after students enter in morning; access by swipe card or office “buzz-in” only
- Crisis Management Plan: posted in each classroom and office containing plans for handling many types of emergencies, including an active shooter event
- School Climate and Student Voices: strong emphasis across the district on the importance of establishing positive school climate and giving students opportunities for their voices to be heard
We are continually discussing and updating our procedures. Topics of safety and security often appear on monthly administrative meeting agendas. Building Quick Response teams meet monthly to brainstorm and update security procedures. The district constantly seeks advice from and meets regularly with law enforcement authorities. This week alone we have had numerous meetings and contacts between police and district personnel, seeking advice on school safety. Last year, a joint 4-hour workshop with PA State Police, Allentown FBI, and Emmaus Police Department was presented to all district administrators. And each year, administrators attend workshops, conferences, and seminars on school safety, bringing back valuable information used to update the district’s Crisis Management Plan.
Also, district administration has discussed the recent news of possible local and national student protests and walkouts. We will neither encourage nor discourage student walkouts, nor will we prevent students from participating or discipline them if they do. Administration will facilitate any walkouts so that they are carried out in an organized and safe fashion. Administration will also be meeting with students to understand and assist with their concerns, be aware of their plans, and to offer additional ways to express their views such as letter writing and fundraising. We want any type of protest to be a positive learning experience for students. Above all, we want their voices to be heard.
Finally, parents have asked what can they do and say at home to support their children. Please feel free to share and discuss the contents of this letter. I have also included a few links to articles that may be of help.
- View Report to Parents – Helping Children Cope with Tragedy
- View Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers Website
- View N.Y. Times Article – Resources for Talking and Teaching About the School Shooting in Florida
- View N.B.C. News Article – What mental health experts say to their kids about school shootings
This is not an easy time for any of us, but please be assured that we will continue to create the safest and most positive learning environment possible for your children.
Michael Schilder, Ed.D.