What is Bellingham Public Schools currently doing to keep students and staff safe?
- Guests must report to main office, sign in, and wear badges; and staff members are instructed to report unfamiliar people to school office.
- Entrances at several elementary schools have been remodeled for enhanced visibility and control of access into the building.
- All new buildings are designed with CPTED principles (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) and the Director of School Safety sits on the planning committee for each new building design.
- Each district site has a state-of-the-art emergency communication system, designed to expedite police response and improve situational awareness. 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.
- A districtwide security site assessment was performed for by a third-party security consultant to evaluate security and identify improvement priorities.
- Planning for new safety features are ongoing as part of the 2018 bond. New safety measures include lockdown shades for classrooms; an interoperable radio communication system; PA/intercom improvements for portables and older buildings, electronic access control for select exterior doors; interior door lock systems; and security cameras for interior common spaces and exterior perimeter locations at schools.
- We partner with the Bellingham Police Department to provide a full-time District Resource Officer.
- The district coordinates with all first responder agencies to ensure our procedures and plans for fire, earthquake, lockdowns and other situations are current and reflect best practices for student safety.
- We bring in groups like the Red Cross to do preparedness education in our elementary and middle levels.
- We work in close collaboration with the City of Bellingham Public Works Department for safe route to school planning and improvements, along with grants for safe walking and biking to school.
Crisis plans and preparedness training
- 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, and agreements 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.
- Safety drills (such as earthquake, lockdown, fire) are performed at all schools for regulatory compliance per RCW 28A.320.125.
Proactive school systems
- Our school provides school-wide behavioral expectations, caring school climate programs, positive interventions and supports, psychological and counseling services, and violence prevention programs such as bully-proofing, social skill development, and conflict mediation.
- Over the past few years, we have added counselors to all 22 of our schools, and we have an additional grant-funded partnership to offer mental health support to any child in need.
- We employ five full-time campus monitors at three high schools and one middle school. Campus monitors help with supervision and maintain close connections with students and assist in daily safety efforts during the school day.
- We employ a security staff and commissioned police officers for large sporting events and school sponsored activities like dances.
Participation by students, staff and parents
- We encourage students to take responsibility for their part in maintaining safe school environments, including student participation in safety planning. Keep your contact information updated, have a family plan, and an out-of-area phone contact. In a large emergency, remember that texts may work but phone calls may not.
- As more schools receive computers in the one-to-one program, we’re engaging more with students and parents about digital citizenship and best practices on social media. View our technology resources for families.
- A 24/7 anonymous reporting system offers means to share concerns via web, email, phone, or text. https://bellinghamschools.org/safe or 844-310-9560.
How often do schools conduct emergency drills?
Every academic year, each school will perform three lockdown drills, one earthquake drill, three fire drills, and one intercom and school response system drill.
What can I do at home to teach my child(ren) about emergencies?
Talking to your kids at home is a key factor in preparedness. Making sure that your family has a plan and practicing what to do in emergencies at home will translate into readiness at school. Being able to talk to your kids about the seriousness of emergencies and listening to whoever is in charge also plays a large role while organizing and practicing preparedness during drills at school. You may find this website helpful for tips on discussing school safety with your child(ren).
Are my children getting age/grade appropriate training?
The Director of School Safety works with school administration and police to ensure that the information being provided to students during drills is age appropriate. Please talk to your children about school safety at home so that they are prepared for drills at school.
Where would I find my child in an emergency?
Depending on the nature of the emergency, your child may be released through the normal pick-up procedures at their school, through modified pick-up procedures at their school, or through a parent/child reunification process at an off-site location. Please do not “self-deploy” to the school during an emergency, as this impedes first responders. Information will be released through the media and through district communication tools to advise you of any special circumstances for release. You can update your contact preferences via Skylert in Skyward.
What is the difference between a lockdown and a lockout?
Lockout may be initiated when there is some kind of danger in the neighborhood, but not directed at the school. It is usually initiated by police and is designed to keep the danger outside of the school. Typically, it lasts only a few minutes, but in some instances may last longer. During a lockout, no one will be allowed in or out, so meetings at the school may need to be rescheduled. Lockouts are precautionary.
Lockdown is initiated when there is a threat to the campus or school. All threats are taken seriously. In the interest of student safety, lockdown may be initiated while the nature of the threat is evaluated. Do not come to the school during an emergency. Information will be released through the media and through district communication tools such as School Messenger to advise you of any special circumstances for release.
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 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 contact if I have questions about safety and security at my school?
Please contact Jonah Stinson, Director of School Safety and Emergency Management.