The tragic deaths of students and educators at a U.S. school weigh heavily on the minds of their counterparts in the North Okanagan.
Wednesday’s Vernon School District board meeting opened with a minute’s silence for the 20 children and six adults that were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Dec. 14.
“It’s especially painful and troubling,” said Bill Turanski, board chairperson.
Trustees were also provided details on the Vernon district’s ability to handle an emergency. Key to the process is risk assessment training.
“Each elementary school has at least one administrator trained and at the secondary level, all administrators and counsellors are trained,” said Don Wilcox, director of instruction for student support services.
“Any threat that occurs or gesture that we believe may put students or staff at risk, we roll into a threat assessment.”
Large binders set out all of the procedures to be followed during an incident, including possible lock-down of schools.
“Lock-down is practised two or three times a year,” said Wilcox.
Photos of the interior of schools have also been taken so emergency officials are familiar with the layout of the facilities.
Counselling is also available after an incident.
The district deals with about 25 threat assessments a year.
“Some are very minor. It may be a child who is upset after a soccer game and says, ‘I wish I can kill that goalie for blocking my shots,’” said Wilcox.
The district is currently in the process of developing a protocol with a number of community agencies.
“It’s important to have the Ministry of Children and Family Development, youth and child health and the RCMP involved,” said Wilcox.
Turanski is impressed with the response procedures that have been developed.
“It’s a comfort to me and I would hope a comfort to parents that we’ve gone to this extend to ensure the safety of students. But nothing is 100 per cent,” he said.