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Staying safe in unsafe times

McAdoo: “Schools are one of the safest places”


School shootings are a frightening – and rising – trend in this country.

Don’t think so? Think again.

Between January 4 and May 24, students were targeted in 28 school shootings.

The toll was 27 dead and 57 injured.

The shootings crisscrossed the nation, reaching from Dorchester, Mass., to Yakima, Wash., and from Richfield, Minn., to Uvalde, Texas.

Since 2018, there have been 119 school shootings, according to National Public Radio.

Could it happen here?

Purcell Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sheli McAdoo wants to assure patrons, “Schools are one of the safest places that students can be.”

And ensuring a safe and healthy environment for students and staff is an ongoing mission based largely on “the protocols that safety officials have advised are deterrents to school violence.”

Purcell Police Chief Bobby Elmore said all new officers conduct walkthroughs of the schools during training to familiarize themselves with the layout.

In addition, the department works closely with school staff on training and safety protocols.

That isn’t just talk. McAdoo said “every officer we have ever worked with knew the buildings intimately.”

Over the past three years, Purcell Schools have upgraded its safety measures through technology.

“We have locked entry ways for all buildings,” McAdoo said.  “We installed fob operated back doors at the Elementary School so that students can be quickly ushered outside the building if necessary.”

The district also uses the RAVE Panic Button.

The RAVE Panic Buttons were made available to districts following an executive order from the governor’s office three years ago.

“We have worked with Purcell Police and Fire to be connected to the RAVE app, so they receive all notifications when the button is pressed,” McAdoo said, adding RAVE is geotracked to each building location.

“This is a very instrumental tool for school safety,” she said.

Gov. Stitt’s order also covered school safety audits.

Purcell schools have undergone two safety audits in the last three years. The most recent was spring of this year.

“We update our school safety plans yearly and each school has a School Safety Committee,” the superintendent said.

In addition, administrators have been trained for rural school safety. And additional school counselors hired through a Counselor Corp grant address the need for increased mental health support.

The district’s StopIt app provides an avenue to report any concerning behavior or issue a student may be experiencing.

The app is monitored 24/7 by StopIt, which reports immediately to the police if anything concerning is reported on the app.

BARK is another tool the district utilizes. It monitors students’ Google accounts and alerts to key words indicating bullying, violence, self-harm and other behaviors, McAdoo said.

Beginning Monday, teachers will go through safety training sessions with the police department.

That is part of a commitment by both sides to focus on safety concerns through a series of quarterly meetings.

“We will explore all options to keep our students and staff safe,” McAdoo said. “Our police department has been a tremendous partner of the school district and extremely responsive to any request for increased safety patrols or presence. 

“We will continue to identify ways to strengthen safety on each campus as part of our normal operating procedures.”


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