Re-2 takes school safety seriously |

Re-2 takes school safety seriously

Guest CommentaryTheresa Hamilton and Gary Pack

Recent events at Rife High School have thrust school safety into the limelight. There have been many people and news agencies with piqued interest over an alleged assault that occurred within the hallways of Rifle High School between two students.One of the students sustained injuries and the other student has been summoned to appear in court.As with all incidents of this nature, there are at least two sides to the story. Many parents attended the March 6 Garfield Re-2 school board meeting to voice one side. They asked some very good questions regarding district policy and procedure and brought forth their concerns regarding school safety.School safety is taken seriously at Garfield Re-2.Before the March 6 school board meeting, Garfield Re-2 had already completed a school security audit. This audit was completed by an outside consultant, and we are awaiting the results and will begin working on the recommendations. We called the community relations wing of the Department of Justice to come into the community and help us determine what community issues are pervasive, and how we can best address them together. We also enlisted the help of the Inter West Equity Center to help us build upon the strong programs in diversity, peer counseling, and school safety that we already have within each of our buildings.In response to the concerns voiced at the March 6 school board meeting, Garfield Re-2 administrators and building principals met to discuss issues identified from citizen comments. Buildings have been directed to evaluate and apply practice and policies to ensure and enhance school safety as well as identify other ways they can proactively enhance school safety. Additional security cameras that were identified for installation at a later date have been fast tracked.However, there appears to be a misunderstanding at the best and misinformation at worst about some of the policies and procedures that Garfield Re-2 already has in place. This newspaper printed that school board president Jay Rickstrew stated that there is no written policy in place concerning how to get medical attention for a student. In actuality, Mr. Rickstrew indicated that there is no written policy specifying the time that should elapse between incidents and calling for medical treatment.Each and every time a student incident occurs, building principals follow a similar procedure. The student is escorted to the office. If there are obvious medical injuries, or if they are suspected, the school health clerk is involved. First aid is provided if needed, and then an investigation is initiated. There is time when students are sent home or for further medical treatment immediately and the investigations are completed at a later date. But all students must be afforded due process.All of our health clerks are trained in Colorado Department of Education best practices. These are guidelines and not codified; however they are comprehensive.As with most incidents of this nature, there is a great deal of information, rumor, innuendo and misinformation circulating throughout the community and at times, landing in our media outlets. Some of it is accurate, some of it is partially accurate, and some of it is false. Because there are parallel tracks running on this incident, both a school disciplinary track and a criminal investigation, the school district must be very careful in what we say. We are governed by FERPA (the Federal Education Right to Privacy Act), HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996), and several state and federal statutes that deal with civil rights.Board policy JRA/JRC indicates that with regards to disciplinary information, any “teacher or counselor to whom disciplinary information is reported shall maintain the confidentiality of the information and shall not communicate to any other person.” This policy and the corresponding state and federal laws are in place to protect the rights of all students involved in a disciplinary action.These are a few of the reasons that Garfield Re-2, for better or for worse, is unable to respond to much of the information that has been circulating as rumor and/or was presented at the school board meeting Tuesday night.The issues raised at the March 6 school board meeting are taken seriously by the school board and the administration. But they are not just school problems. They are, in a real sense, community issues. The Garfield School District Re-2 hopes that through the many actions that we have already taken, and those that we are still working on, the community will actively participate in finding solutions for the larger problems. We hope that the press will responsibly assist in such a community effort.Theresa Hamilton is director of districtwide services for Garfield School District Re-2, and Gary Pack is Re-2 superintendent.

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