READY TO RESPOND

READY TO RESPOND — Security teams, like Sunnyside High School Vice Principal Wally Shearer and Sunnyside Police Officer Chris Sparks, who serves as one of two School Resource Officers, are stationed throughout the school district as part of the district’s goal to keep children safe at school.

SUNNYSIDE — Across the nation, school districts are facing great challenges to provide safe learning environments for even as social media threats, real or pranks, continue to plague their efforts.

Within the past two months, Sunnyside school security team and officials, along with city police have responded to two social media threats causing the schools to go into immediate lock down.

The most recent came as a middle school boy posted a photo of a gun, Sunnyside School District Superintendent Kevin McKay reported.

The suspicious material was brought to the district administrative team’s attention by a student who saw the posting, McKay acknowledged.

He credited the district’s latest tool for school safety – “See Something, Say Something” campaign.

“The message apparently is working,” McKay stated.

In their effort to get ahead of any social media threat, Sunnyside School Board member are paying close attention to the strategic plan which enhances security measures for the safety of students, staff and the community, McKay stressed.

While the district has no control over what goes on social media, McKay said the district can’t assume social media threats will be harmless.

“We are taking this effort extremely seriously,” he remarked.

For the past several years, the district has trained staff and students in lock down procedures, secure and teach, shelter in place and (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) ALICE evacuation techniques, McKay explained.

The School Board has worked to fund extra security at the district buildings by stationing security officers at the middle schools and high school, and at the Outlook Elementary School.

The district now contracts with the city for two school resource officers, six security liaisons, plus holding more than 25 safety drills annually.

“In addition, there are 1,350 security camera views across the district,” McKay added. “We are laser-focused on making sure our students are safe and our staff is safe.”

Julia Hart can be reached at 509-837-4500, ext. 123 or at jhart@sunnysidesun.com

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