School Safety

Student and staff safety is a top priority at South Washington County Schools. The district is committed to continually reevaluating school safety procedures and protocols, and is working to be as transparent as possible regarding safety plans.  Parents, students, staff and community members are encouraged to share their thoughts or concerns regarding school safety through We’re Listening.

Building Upgrades

Thanks to community support of the 2013 Referendum, the district was able to make several important security upgrades to schools. The changes include:

  • Secure Entrances: All schools have vestibules to control the access to the buildings. Office staff at each location are trained on how to interact with people before they enter the building to assess any possible threats and must give visitors access to the building.
  • Increased Card Access: Card access is needed to access many spaces throughout the buildings. Staff are given card access along with a district issued photo ID that should be worn at all times. Law enforcement has also been given access, so they can respond to any emergency as quickly as possible.
  • Safety Laminate Glass: Shatter-proof glass has been installed at all schools. The glass will maintain its integrity and remain in place if it is hit by a bullet.
  • Classroom Locking Mechanisms: All classroom doors were retrofitted with classroom locking mechanisms, allowing them to be locked from the inside when the door is shut.
  • Surveillance Cameras: District and school officials have access to security camera video that can be seen live anywhere, at any time in case of an emergency. These cameras are also used to determine where there may be current areas of concern in buildings, due to congestion or other issues, so changes can be made.

Law Enforcement Partnerships

District 833 enjoys a strong working relationship with local police departments. A School Resource Officer works at each middle and high schools. Police officers also have strong relationships with, and make regular visits to elementary school. Local and national law enforcement professionals help the district develop and review emergency preparedness plans. Plans were also created using guidance provided by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The plans include the following:

  • Threat Assessments: When a threat is made involving a District 833 school, a threat assessment is conducted by school and district staff, with the help of mental health and law enforcement professionals. These assessments are flexible and reviewed when necessary.
  • Option-based Response: The district believes in providing staff with training and guidance to handle emergency situations in any way they deem necessary. Emergency response plans are reviewed with teachers and staff at the start of each school year and each teacher has a packet of situations and responses in each classroom for them to review at any time.
  • Annual Drills: All schools in Minnesota are required to have five lockdown drills, five fire drills and one tornado drill each year by state law. The drills help students better understand their environments and give them confidence to respond in an emergency situation. The drills also help staff review their plans and provide them an opportunity to report any issues.
  • School Emergency Response Teams: Each school has a team of staff members who help the district prioritize training and plans for the school in case of an emergency.
  • District Management Team: District leaders are prepared to handle an emergency situation. The setup of the team is based on FEMA’s Incident Command System which assigns each person a role and responsibilities, if an emergency situation were to arise. 
  • Transportation Emergency Protocol: The district understands it is responsible for students’ secure and safe transportation to and from school. All bus drivers are trained on how to handle a range of situations and report any issues that arise.

Mental Health

South Washington County Schools also understands the importance of mental health resources in keeping students safe. District 833 schools provide a range of school behavioral and mental health supports that involve the coordination of school counselors, psychologists, nurses, teachers and social workers. The district offers mental health support services for all of its schools including:

  • Schoolwide Consultation Teams: A multidisciplinary team from each school identifies students in need and develops supports and interventions, as necessary. The team meets weekly to monitor students.
  • Broad Training: Teachers and employees are provided with training to spot and intervene in cases of mental illness, as well as, trauma informed training, suicide prevention training and student relationship building training.
  • Flight Team: A district flight team is prepared to handle a crisis situation at any District 833 school.

In addition, all schools are teaching bullying prevention each year, along with mindfulness and emotional regulation strategies. These topics are presented to students individually, in groups, in classes and in assemblies. Many schools also have programs like Zones of Regulation, Yoga Calm, Mind Up, Social Thinking and Skill Steaming that promote mental and emotional wellness.

Mental health resources for families can be found here.

The district’s efforts to keep schools safe; including details on school infrastructure improvements, partnerships with law enforcement, emergency preparedness plans and mental health resources was discussed at the March 1, 2018 School Board Meeting.