Message from Dr. Larry Redding, Acting Superintendent

The most heart-wrenching conversations school leaders would ever have with a family is about a student casualty, especially if that life-ending event occurred at school. When I heard about the recent school shooting in Florida, I reacted the same way I have for the past ten years – first with great sadness that a child in a school classroom was a victim of a preventable crime and then, how can I work to improve the safety and security of those students placed in my care. I never want to become hardened or callused about the news of the loss of a child from violent acts at school nor be caught wishing I would have done more to proactively promote school safety measures.

Recognizing that every public place, including schools, are vulnerable to attacks by individuals wanting to do harm to others, our attitude must be like a Scout – “Be Prepared”.  Our York Suburban school leaders have worked hard to develop prevention and protection plans and practice our response to various potential safety violations. Using the All-Hazards planning model, our district is focused on providing a safe learning environment for all students. We don’t just build a plan and store it on a shelf.  We have a very deliberate approach to sharing the expectations and procedures with all school staff, especially those new to a building or the district. The most outward part of a plan is a drill with students. They, too, need to understand their role in our preparedness.

The ongoing review and inspection of our school facilities have also become part of our regular practice. Both internal and external resources have been and are being used to identify potential risk factors. Both the Spring Garden and Springettsbury Township Police Departments have been a tremendous asset to the York Suburban School District due to their proactive approach to school safety. The PA Department of Education Safe School Office and the PA Auditor General’s Office are giving renewed attention to the physical improvements schools can make to enhance school safety measures.  Our district welcomes the assistance of others in reviewing our building entrances and exits, communication and alarm systems, parking lots and general building and grounds security to provide recommendations for improvements.

It is impossible to prevent all school safety violations with a single focus on facility improvements or a good All-Hazards Plan. These safety and security plans can certainly reduce the likelihood that a violent attack may occur, but we must also address the role positive school climate has on reducing acts of violence at school. Fostering a climate of respect and trust may be the most important target for our entire school community. Each one of us can reinforce positive behaviors, respectful interactions, and pro-social behaviors. We teach and encourage students to use conflict resolution and peer-to-peer problem-solving techniques. We take proactive steps to reduce bullying behaviors.  We have highly skilled guidance staff to teach and model respectful behaviors. Trusting relationships between adults and students are the product of quality connections. Part of the daily efforts of our York Suburban staff is working to make connections with each child. Our teachers, classroom aides, guidance counselors, nurses, librarians, office personnel, coaches, custodians, food service employees, bus drivers and administrators all play a vital role in building trusting relationships with our students.

Making our schools safer is a duty we all share.  The actions and resources directed by our school board is evidence we, the York Suburban School District, are committed to that school safety mission.  We are updating and upgrading our school emergency operation plans, engaging our school community at all levels to build trusting relationships with our students,  and committed to forging stronger bonds with our emergency-services personnel. We want to be proactive in our efforts to foster a climate where we freely communicate between and among the community stakeholders to ensure the safest school environment humanly possible.