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The Campanile

The Campanile

School-wide safety procedures, communication require reform

As the lunch period came to an end on Nov. 4, students began mentally preparing themselves for fifth period. But as they walked to class, armed Palo Alto police officers raced after a suspected bank robber, causing panic and confusion.

This same level of uncertainty from teachers, admin and campus supervisors led to a wide range of reactions – some faculty members told students to head off campus towards Town & Country, some started a lockdown procedure, and some teachers opted to continue with their lesson plan.

The Campanile thinks Paly should implement a school-wide Remind system in order to avoid confusion in chaotic situations, and change the way the school educates students about safety procedures.

Supt. Don Austin said Paly administrators did not call for a school-wide lockdown because of the quick turnaround time of the incident.

This made it impossible for administrators to contact all students and staff simultaneously, particularly because the incident occurred in between lunchtime and 5th period. But a Paly remind could send information about an emergency to students and staff immediately, regardless of when the situation occurs.

With alarmingly high incidents of school shootings nationwide, The Campanile thinks Paly students and staff also need to take safety drill procedures seriously and capitalize on opportunities to practice them. To prepare for disasters, Paly currently holds Safe and Welcoming Schools Day, a minimum day allocated to covering topics such as changes to the student handbook, academic integrity, student wellness, Title IX policies and safety protocol drills.

Though covering all these issues on the same day is a good idea in theory, Paly has historically had low student attendance on Safe and Welcoming Schools Day because it is a minimum day, and takes place on a Friday before a long weekend.

The Campanile thinks the best approach to covering safety procedures is to periodically sprinkle them throughout the school year, as opposed to concentrating them all on one day. This would likely lead to higher student attendance during drill practice and ensure increased understanding of safety procedures.

According to Palo Alto Unified School District Safety, Security and Disaster Preparedness Manager Mike Jacobs, one of PAUSD’s main goals for the future is to ensure its students and employees feel as safe and as confident as possible in the face of a man-made or natural disaster.

Paly can have state-of-the-art emergency equipment and have flawless emergency plans, but it will only find success when students and staff take training seriously and perfect these plans.

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