Spring 2023 Safe and Welcoming Schools Update
Posted: | Updated:
Summary: Community violence takes a toll on our community. Our district is making progress in strengthening safety through improvements and partnerships.
Safe and Welcoming Schools: Our Collective Responsibility
Dear SPS Families, Staff, and Community,
I know school safety and student wellness are top of mind for many of you. It is on my mind every day.
June 2 is the 9th annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day, a day to unite in a call to end gun violence. The long and tragic list of school communities – including our own – affected by violence is a public safety and mental health issue that affects all of us.
The Seattle Public Schools community suffered a profound loss last fall when an act of gun violence took place in one of our schools, leading to the death of an Ingraham High School student.
Gun and community violence takes a toll on our students, educators, and families. This year, violence has directly affected schools across our district, particularly our high school students and communities. Garfield and Nova students and educators were affected this week because of concerns of violence surrounding their campuses.
The violence we are seeing in and around our schools is heartbreaking and unacceptable. While I am proud of the progress made since launching our safety initiative last fall, I acknowledge this update took more time than anticipated. Rebounding from tragedy and ensuring the safety of our school community is not easy. We have too much at stake to not be diligent in this work.
Our district is making considerable progress in strengthening school safety through improvements and partnerships. My goal is to create an ecosystem of safety for our schools.
Please read our Spring 2023 Safety and Wellness Update below.
I am grateful for the dedication and commitment of our safety professionals, our operations, and school health teams for the ways they are collaborating to support our students and staff.
Dr. Brent Jones
Seattle Public Schools
Spring 2023 Safety and Wellness Update
SPS is committed to strengthening community partnerships and continuing facility updates in our buildings. The SPS safety initiative includes:
- Conducting a safety review of SPS campuses
- Inviting safety leaders to the table to create community action teams
- Establishing a council comprised of mental health and wellness leaders from our community
SPS is taking immediate and tangible action on safety improvements.
Campus signage: This fall, the district will be rolling out new signage to all our secondary schools that help students and staff easily remember and follow safety procedures.
School entry and classroom locks: SPS is updating building locks to be activated from inside classrooms. The lock replacement project is underway, and we are making progress on this update in our buildings.
Safety reporting tools: SPS has rolled out a new anonymous safety reporting app for our community. To download the app, open your phone’s app store and search “Seattle Public Schools”. You may also use this universal link to download the app.
Our work to review the safety and security of campuses continues. The system-wide review is providing beneficial insights to help us improve school community safety.
Our school and district teams are working to use these recommendations to improve safety. Because of the nature of the report, SPS will provide an overview of the findings but will not release the full report. This is to protect sensitive safety information that could be used by someone intending to cause harm at our schools.
We have received the report that highlights opportunities for safety and security improvements in Ingraham High School. Read a summary of the Ingraham safety report.
Reviews of all our schools are underway. Because we are a large district, this process will take time. This work is a continuation of our facility, safety, and security reviews already conducted in our buildings.
Community Action Teams, Student Wellness, and Neighborhood Safety
Collaboration with the greater Seattle community is fundamental to reducing violence that affects our students, families, and staff.
We are working with community partners— including first responders, City of Seattle, and organizations that operate in our buildings— to increase safety in and around our schools.
SPS senior staff are active participants in Seattle’s interdepartmental groups that are addressing public safety in our city. These groups review data and assess shared experiences across the district, the city, and community partners.
This spring, this partnership helped spark a pilot program in five schools funded by the city to expand mental health resources for students. The funding is enabling the district to hire additional staff and mental health clinicians. The city funding is also paying for trauma-informed training for SPS staff. Rainier Beach, Chief Sealth International, and Ingraham high schools and Denny and Aki Kurose middle schools have been identified as the pilot schools.
The wellness council has evolved into a group of physicians, clinicians, and first responders who are developing a set of recommendations to introduce a mental health awareness campaign for Seattle.
Across the district, the School Traffic Safety Committee and Safe Routes to Schools partnerships are helping SPS improve neighborhood and before and after school safety. These programs seek to improve safety in areas around schools and strengthen community connections. Read more about the city’s Safe Routes to School program.
Operations to Support Safe and Welcoming Schools
While we never want to experience emergencies in schools, it is vital we take the necessary precautions. The district’s security response takes a multifaceted approach – fostering safety systems, increased interventions for students, and emergency response for reported incidents.
SPS strategies to build and expand support for our students and staff include:
- Strengthen case management collaboration between Coordinated School Health and Safety and Security teams to help identify and address behaviors before they lead to violence
- Continue to deliver safety and security training and support for school staff
- Sustain consistent building safety standards
- Expand community partnerships to improve neighborhood safety around our schools and before or after school hours
Please remember, we all play a role in school safety. There are many ways to report school safety concerns. If you or your student sees something that seems wrong, or if they know someone who needs help, please report it right away.
Reports of suspicious or threatening activity are most helpful when they include key observations such as who or what you saw, when you saw it, where it occurred, and why it is a concern.
- Call 911 to report or request assistance during an emergency.
- Use our Safe Schools Hotline 206-252-0510 to report any threats to SPS schools. This phone number is managed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Students, families, and community may submit anonymous safety tips on our mobile phone app.
How SPS Responds to Reported Incidents
When we receive an urgent incident report at one of our schools, an on-call specialized group of SPS staff quickly gathers. The team works directly with school staff to evaluate the information and determine the best response.
Our priority is to secure the campus and manage the safety of our students and staff. For some safety concerns, we work with city first responders for additional public safety support. As we work to dispatch support and monitor the situation, we notify the school community to keep our families and staff informed and engaged. We understand the desire to receive immediate notification. We do our best to provide timely and accurate information.