Opinion: ACSD took steps after shooting-threat incident

Over the last two months, our school community has continued to process the school safety threat to MUMS in December to both assess our safety preparedness as well as support our students, staff, and community. This event was a shock to MUMS and ACSD; we have all read about similar incidents across the country, but until December we had not had to respond to one in our own schools.
We have supported students at MUMS through our Teacher Advisory system to encourage discussion and enable us to identify when students are showing signs of stress. Guidance has been actively involved in supporting students experiencing stress, and has acted as a bridge between families and CSAC, where appropriate. We continue to work closely with our CSAC clinician for additional support to our students.
Our MUMS staff, who are an exceptional team of educators, carry the responsibility of both educating our students as well as monitoring their emotional well-being. To support faculty and staff, we held a debriefing meeting with the Middlebury Police and visited with our Employee Assistance Program representative. Guidance and administration continue to monitor the stress levels of adults.
We have met with members of our community to provide what details we can of the actual incident and further steps we’ve taken within our ability under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. An outline of the event timeline can be found at tinyurl.com/MUMS-event, and on our website.
As a school district, we continue to put student safety as our first priority. Our existing safety response systems facilitated strong coordination with law enforcement to act, investigate, and take action throughout this incident. Immediately following the event, we met with other agencies involved in the incident through a facilitated debrief led by the Vermont School Safety Team Director, Rob Evans, to look at preparedness, communication, response, and systems. Our ACSD Safety Committee is using this information to review protocols and build stronger connections with our partner agencies. 
An event of this nature takes time to process as a community, and it brings into focus the fact that gun violence in schools is an increasing crisis in our country. In 2018, there were 97 school shooting incidents in the US, up from 44 the previous year. We have much more work to do as a nation in figuring out how to address this issue, which won’t go away by maintaining status quo.
In the coming months, we will be working with our community to be proactive in supporting strong safety response systems along with providing opportunities to process this event collectively. Moving forward, we are partnering with Sandy Hook Promise to bring their Say Something program to all ACSD schools. This program has helped avert multiple school shootings and suicide threats by empowering students and educators to recognize troubling behavior, speak up, and save lives. In addition, we will be continuing our safety response training, with a community informational forum slated for this spring.
Thank you for your continued involvement in our schools. Please contact me or a principal if you or your student needs additional support or have questions as we work together to make our school community safer.
Peter Burrows is superintendent of ACSD.

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