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Nevis board addresses school safety: paramount

Nevis School

Nevis School principal John Strom addressed safety in the school in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy at Monday night's board meeting, noting, "generally, school safety is the most difficult topic."

Student safety is paramount on his agenda, he said. "I spend most of my time thinking about it.

"I know after the shooting in Red Lake, the principal never worked another day," Strom said of the 10 students killed in the northern Minnesota town in 2005.

"There is no single thing I can do to guarantee a building will be a safe building," he said.

But to that end, he conducted meetings with teachers and staff Monday on the issue.

"Statistically, schools are still the safest place in the country, despite tragedies," Strom reminded the board. "That doesn't mean there are not a few more things we can do. But unless we become a penitentiary, there is nothing we can do to keep people out," he said.

The student at Red Lake Falls drove through the doors before the school went into lockdown, Strom said.

Staff members have been trained in mandated reporting of child abuse, he said. "That applies to threats. They are usually warning signs, but ignored.

"Kids have to trust adults, believe that they can tell them things. And adults have to act," he said.

Strom distributed "10 key findings in the Safe School Initiative" that were developed in the early 2000s by the FBI and Secret Service.

He starred significant points in the report, including, "Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker's idea and/or plan to attack."

Most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused concern or indicated a need for help, the study found. And many attackers felt bullied, persecuted or injured by others prior to the attack.

"There are no guaranteed indicators," Strom said. "Teachers need to engage kids in conversation and pay attention to what they say. We need to tell students if they hear something that makes them uncomfortable, tell somebody.

"Students understand that if they report something, it will be acted upon. We encourage kids to tell parents if they don't want to come to the office," he said.

"Most of the students feel connected to Heidi (Wormley)," he said of the school counselor.

"It's sad that as a society that we send kindergartners and first graders to school and they are a target," board chair Ed Becker said. "It breaks my heart to think about these things.

"It's a good idea to revisit what we have in place and look at things we can do better," Becker said.

"These things start at home," Becker said. "It's not the schools' fault."