What is Bellingham Public Schools currently doing to keep students and staff safe?

  • The district uses an all-hazards approach to mitigate, prepare, and respond to emergencies and large-scale disasters, and manages school resiliency initiatives, training, and planning through the district’s School Safety and Emergency Management Office.
  • Safety drills (such as earthquake, lockdown, fire) are performed monthly at all schools for regulatory compliance per RCW 28A.320.125. District emergency communications plans are updated annually for the start of the school year, as well as emergency communication systems. In-person safety training is delivered at each district site to provide updates for response and prevention best practices. Each school has pre-identified offsite emergency locations reviewed annually, and compacts with disaster agencies like The Red Cross are pre-established for regional disasters. Systems are currently in place for threat assessment, suicide prevention, incident reporting, and mobile crisis recovery teams. The Director of School Safety and Emergency Management regularly coordinates with community first responder organizations including law enforcement agencies, fire departments, Whatcom Unified Emergency Management, Community Emergency Response Team, hospitals, and disaster volunteer agencies. The district also employs a full-time District Resource Officer (DRO) who supports our schools in partnership with the Bellingham Police Department.
  • Recent safety capital improvement projects have enhanced staff and student safety. Lockdown shades, fencing, seismic retrofits, and building access control improvements have taken place at selected sites, and visitor management systems have been instituted at all schools. Each district location has a state-the-art emergency panic system, designed to expedite police response to school crises. The technology provides a direct line of communication with law enforcement personnel and dispatch and allows for real-time information exchange for better response in the event of an emergency.
  • In the last four years, we have added counselors to all 22 of our schools and just last month, we started a new partnership through a grant to offer mental health support for any child in need. We are working more closely than ever before with community partners to help support all students and families.

 

What does it mean if my school is in lockdown or lockout?

  • Many safety situations involving schools are caused by events occurring in neighborhoods, not necessarily related to the school itself. In a lockout, schools lock their doors as a preventative measure and instruction continues. This is implemented when there is a hazard outside of the building such as criminal activity or evolving and potentially dangerous events in the community. In a lockdown, there is an on-site situation where classrooms follow standard protocols to secure their room.
  • These situations can occur suddenly without much warning, and all of our attention goes toward the safety of students and staff inside in the building. To provide families with accurate information, notifications usually go out after the situation is stabilized. Depending on the duration and type of situation, there will be times when an informational letter explaining what happened goes home with students at the end of the day or an email is sent; other times, a phone call is warranted. We use our best judgment, according to the situation, on how to communicate and when, to make sure you are fully informed.

 

Who do I call if I have questions about safety and security at my school?

Please contact Jonah Stinson, Director of School Safety & Emergency Management, at jonah.stinson@bellinghamschools.org