Rocky Mountain schools work to be prepared for any scenario

Parents of school-aged children in Golden received a message on January 18, informing them of a “hold and secure” protocol being followed at the schools.

This type of protocol occurs when an incident is unfolding in the community, and schools want to ensure additional safety of the students. The doors are locked at the entrances to the school, and classes continue as normal inside. After school, additional supervision was provided as an extra precaution to make sure students made it off school grounds safely.

Parents were notified of the hold and secure via e-mail, which is how the schools communicate quickly and efficiently. Anyone who did not receive an e-mail should update their contact information with their child’s school.

“If there’s something that has occurred in their school, they should be getting communication through e-mail,” said Rocky Mountain School District 6 assistant superintendent Jennifer Turner.

A hold and secure protocol can be enacted for a number of reasons. Anything from a cougar in the area to an incident unfolding in the community can prompt principals to lock the doors to protect the students.

“Hold and secure is for a variety of reasons,” said Golden Secondary School principal Iris Trask. “We assess the situation outside the school, and we want to keep kids in.”

These situations can include almost anything, and it is up to the principal to determine the action taken. Once the threat has passed, the principal has the authority to unlock the doors and proceed as normal.

“Hold and secures are something that is non threatening, but it’s a precautionary step where there’s something going on in the community,” said Turner. “That’s just a closing of the door, and a locking of the door, until we have full information. We want to make sure our kids are safe.”

The hold and secure protocol is quite different from a lock down procedure, which the high school practices twice a year.

“A lock down is a process in which all of the events and activities in the school stop, and that students remain in their classrooms with the doors locked, and everybody is contained in that school,” Turner said.

Students will then be asked to hide in their classrooms until the threat has passed, explained Trask. RCMP are the only ones who can lift a full lock down procedure. They are equipped with the keys to the school to get in and out as needed. The RCMP also have training to ensure they are fully aware of the layout of the schools in case of an emergency.

Schools in B.C. follow a number of emergency preparedness procedures including fire drills, and on the West Coast, earthquake drills.

At each school in the district, there is a Violence Threat Risk Assessment team that includes RCMP, superintendents, the Ministry of Children and Development, teachers, and more, who work together to identify and help youth who are struggling, and whose behaviour has become abnormal.

Students also have access to the Expect Respect and a Safe Education (ERASE) program, which is available online and provides resources for everyone to embrace a safe and caring school community. There are also tools and resources to help those who are struggling, and an anonymous reporting tool that students can use. Some examples for the “report it” tool on the ERASE website are “My friend Jane was talking about suicide and I’m worried about her,” and “A kid at my school posted some threats online – I think someone might get hurt.”

ERASE is available online at www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/erase.

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