FORT KENT, Maine — Valley Unified Superintendent Ben Sirois warned parents and residents Wednesday not to be naive in thinking a school shooting couldn’t happen in northern Maine.
Administrators at Valley Unified Schools in Madawaska, St. Agatha and Fort Kent developed a plan several years ago to keep students safe and expanded on it, especially in the wake of an increased number of school shootings. schools across the country. Sirois said there have been security measures for at least eight years that he has been in the school system.
The day after a school shooting in Uvdale, Texas, in which 19 school-age children and two teachers were killed, Sirois sent a letter to parents discussing the Valley Unified safety plan.
“While we don’t want to think about it, it goes without saying that after every school shooting, we can’t be naive about something so tragic happening in our remote area of northern Maine,” said Sirois.
The Maine School Safety Center has also urged schools across the state to review their emergency plans and make sure local law enforcement knows what they are.
Entrance doors to all Valley Unified schools are locked during the school day and school visitors must be granted access to the building by office staff.
Thanks to COVID funds, high schools in all three cities received security vestibules at the entrances, providing an extra layer of protection against potential attackers. These funds were also used to improve the CCTV systems in each of the schools.
Through the use of loans from the Schools Revolving Renovation Fund, these safety vestibules will be completed at the remaining Valley Unified schools by the end of summer vacation, he said.
The schools are all ALICE certified for the active shooting training of students and staff.
ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, is a training program designed to equip people with the skills they would need should an active shooter or aggressive intruder ever find themselves in the school building or on the school grounds. school.
Sirois said that to keep students safe, it’s critical that people speak up when faced with any information that may indicate the potential for school violence. Education Week reports that the Uvdale shooting is the 27th in the United States this year so far and the 119th since 2018, Sirois said.
“We can’t express enough the importance of ‘seeing something, saying something’ in the age of social media and given the mental health crisis in this country,” Sirois said. “Not all school safety measures around the world compare to a proactive approach to preventing these tragic events, and often people planning a mass shooting often share information on their social media accounts days before to act.
Along with the letter, Sirois included information for parents and educators on how to talk to children about abuse.