In her statement to schools Dec. 14, Superintendent Carole Smith said:
"Our hearts go out to the victims and families of the terrible incident at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Student and staff safety is a priority every day for us. Incidents like this remind us how important it has been for all of PPS’ principals and teachers to have trained for emergencies of all kinds and to continue to regularly practice their emergency team response with students."
PPS acts to insure student safety
Parents and community members are asking what steps Portland Public Schools has taken to prepare schools to address emergencies.
Over the past two years, PPS has developed systematic, school-based emergency preparedness measures to respond to everything from police action in a school’s neighborhood to a shooter in the school to earthquake and fire safety. A federal grant has allowed PPS to put in place safety plans, tools and training programs that have strengthened every school’s emergency response abilities.
View details on the PPS Emergency Management website.
“We have worked hard to take a multi-faceted approach to student and staff safety, using national best practices and federally approved protocols including the power of repeated drills to practice our response,” said George Weatheroy, PPS director of Security Services. “We grieve for the families from Clackamas and Sandy Hook and we are turning that grief into action by looking now at how to build on what we already have in place.”
What can parents do?
Weatheroy, who as a PPS school police officer in the 1990s developed the campus monitor program and later became a Portland Police Bureau sergeant supervising the police bureau’s school resource officers, emphasizes the crucial role that parents and staff play in school safety:
“We will always have vulnerabilities, but we can reduce our vulnerability through vigilance,” Weatheroy said. “By saying, ‘Hello! Welcome to our school. Can I direct you to the office to sign in?’ we are being both welcoming and vigilant school communities.”
Community pulls together
Parents and teachers are already showing their leadership.
Grant High School counselor Madeline Kokes organized a candlelight vigil at Laurelhurst School to end gun violence Dec. 15. And parents, students, teachers and neighbors joined the national movement Hands around Our Schools, holding hands around Sunnyside Environmental School and Alameda Elementary School Dec. 17 in a show of solidarity with Sandy Hook and a demonstration of the strength of school communities.
Courtney Lobo, a Sunnyside parent who organized the event at her school, shared her facebook post with PPS Pulse:
“The clouds parted, people strolled up… Within minutes, candles were lit… our circle grew. The music of Johnny Keener and Mo Phillips played... I looked around and saw babies, teachers, parents, students, siblings, neighbors, people who were just riding by on their bikes who decided to see what was up.
We came together, in the wake of great tragedy, of unfathomable sadness… we held hands. We sent healing thoughts... We each met someone we didn't know before… We listened to a beautiful poem by Kim Stafford, sang John Lennon's 'Imagine,' and stomped in time (to) 'We're not gonna take it, anymore!' …
In the end, we were about 80 strong… and I walked away from the circle feeling hopeful. Life is good. People are good. Now let's get to work. Please stay connected.”
Resources for parents and schools
On the PPS Emergency Management page under "Parent/Staff Resources" are links to U.S. Department of Education guidance to families and schools:
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