In the wake of the Parkland, Florida tragedy, Dr. Shibler addressed the safety of Rockford Public schools on February 15, in the following letter to staff and families.
Dear Rockford Public Schools Staff and Families:
As you know, many lives were lost yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, at the hands of a former classmate. Our hearts go out to the families, victims, and everyone affected by this tragedy.
Sadly, school shootings and violence are in the news too often. While the reasons for these senseless acts of violence will and should continue to be debated, it is important that we – schools, families, and communities – continue to work together to prevent such incidents from occurring.
At Rockford Public Schools, we have worked hard over the years to not only provide safeguards for our students and staff if something were to happen, but also to prevent something like this from happening at all.
Prevention: In 2011, Rockford Public Schools began its Developing Healthy Kids initiative. These dynamic programs provide information and resources to support mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Today’s students deal with a substantial amount of pressure, which can lead to stress and mental health issues. Our high school peer listeners, a group of students trained to support their peers and provide resources to them, is also available and well used by our student body. The feedback I have received tells me these two programs have had a significant impact on our students.
In addition, Rockford Public Schools is a leader in promoting Michigan’s OK2Say program, which provides an app for students to confidentially report anything that doesn’t “seem right,” whether that be someone threatening harm to themselves or others. Our students have embraced this tip line and many potentially tragic situations have been prevented and help provided to those in need.
The preventative efforts we have made over the past 10 years have developed a culture in which students feel comfortable speaking with an adult when they have concerns of their own or about other student behaviors.
Safeguards: Rockford Public Schools has what I believe to be the best security department in West Michigan, if not the entire state. We employ retired law enforcement personnel who bring valuable skills to the school setting.
In 2014, the Rockford community supported a bond proposal that provided $76 million for improvements throughout the district, with $11 million of that being used for security upgrades. As of today, we have security vestibules at all of our schools. In my opinion, our security vestibules would have prevented an incident such as yesterday’s occurrence in Florida from happening here because our trained staff would not have allowed the shooter to advance beyond the entry point. In addition, we have surveillance cameras throughout the district, which are monitored regularly and, by the end of this year, we will have shatterproof glass on all first-floor windows. As part of the bond issue, we also installed a volunteer identification system in which fingerprints are used to identify approved visitors prior to allowing them entry at our schools.
Our entire staff has been trained by security experts, including former Secret Service personnel, and will continue to receive training and participate in exercises as part of our comprehensive response plan. We are prepared in the event any type of incident should occur.
In summary, I am taking this occasion to assure you is that we will continue to be proactive in our prevention efforts and in keeping our buildings safe and secure. However, we are always open to suggestions on how we can improve. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions or suggestions. Thank you.
Dr. Mike Shibler, Superintendent of Schools