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School Board Approves Framework for Safe and Successful Schools

By Janet Bradley
At the June 19 meeting, School Board members approved a Framework for Safe and Successful Schools, which includes the employment of a Mental Health Services Director for the school district. The position, along with the services and training, will total $156,770. These services are being funded through a state allocation which was passed in Senate Bill 7026 requiring mental health services be provided to school districts.
The Safe and Successful Schools Plan will integrate services with collaboration between schools and community mental health providers through a school-wide multi-tiered system of support. Mental health programs will offer three tiers of support. Universal or Tier 1 will provide mental health activities for all students, Targeted or Tier 2 will yield prevention services for students identified as at-risk for a mental health problem, and Intensive or Tier 3 services will deliver services to students who already show signs of a mental health problem. All staff will complete a mental health training that will provide an overview and warning signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. School counselors and threat assessment teams will work to implement interventions and referrals for individual counseling. Partnerships with community agencies will provide an additional layer of support for students if needed. The Director of Mental Health Services will develop a record keeping system for tracking how many students are referred for services and how many students receive school based and community-based services.
Another component of the Safe and Successful Schools Plan is the School Safety Specialist, who will be responsible for the supervision and oversight for all school safety personnel, policies, and procedures in the school district. One of the duties of the Safety Specialist is to facilitate effective threat assessment. A threat assessment team will determine intervention for individuals whose behavior may pose a threat to the safety of school staff or students. An assessment team consists of persons with expertise in counseling, instruction, school administration, and law enforcement. Problem-solving teams, which will involve grade level teams and content teams, will review needs of students at the school level. School Safety Teams will also be in place for monitoring the needs of the school campus as well as safety needs of students.
The Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool (FSSAT) will be completed for each GCSD school on an annual basis. This tool must address school emergency and crisis preparedness planning; security, crime, and violence prevention policies; physical security measures; professional development training needs; an examination of support service roles in school safety, security, and emergency planning; school security and school police staffing, operational practices, and related services; and school and community collaboration on school safety, and physical security controls. The information contained in this report with be confidential and exempt from public records requirements.
The district will also have a School Resource Officer at each of the schools. This procedure was implemented after the Parkland incident in February.
The School Guardian Program is part of Senate Bill 7026 and is also part of the Safe and Successful Schools Plan. The School Guardian Program allows school personnel to be armed on the school campus. The purpose of the program is to aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises. Excluded from participating are individuals who exclusively perform classroom duties as classroom teachers. This limitation does not apply to classroom teachers of Junior Officers’ Training Corps programs, a current service member or current or former law enforcement officer. To be part of the School Guardian Program, school employees who volunteer would be required to do the following: hold a valid license to carry a concealed weapon; complete 132 hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training; complete and pass a Fit for Duties Examination by a physician; complete at least 4 hours of defense tactics instruction; pass a psychological evaluation; pass initial, subsequent, and random drug tests; successfully complete ongoing training, weapon inspection, and firearm qualifications on at least an annual basis; and complete twelve hours of a certified nationally recognized diversity training. The School Guardian Program was approved for Gilchrist Schools at the June 5, 2018 School Board Meeting. Positive Behavioral Interventions Support (PBIS) will also be an element of the Safe and Successful Schools Plan. Emphasis will be placed on systems of support that include proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create positive school environments.

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