Jamestown High School students on the Jamestown School Board expressed concern over safety in schools in the wake of recent stabbings in the city.
Ex-Officio student member Emylia Hallberg said while there is more police support in the school, the students want to see a Safety Committee created to get public input.
The other Ex-Officio student member, Aubrey Reynolds, agreed, “I think a lot of the faculty is concerned for the safety of the students and safety of themselves in general. I mean, they were promised a safety committee earlier this year. Not much action has taken place, so they’d like to see that go forward and so would we. We really care about our school. The recent issues with the fights, all the stabbings, is kind of causing an uneasy feeling in the school.”
Superintendent Dr. Kevin Whitaker said there had seemed to be interest from the community to join a Safety Committee, “But we didn’t get a lot of interest. I reached out to a few people and made some phone calls to say, ‘I heard that you might be interested. Would you like to join?’ People said, ‘Well, sure yeah, ok. Just let me know if that’s a thing.’ But we had very, very few people from outside the district say they would be interested so that was a little disappointing.”
Whitaker said the committee would look at items like ballistics coating on windows, weapons and metal detection; tactical issues, and infrastructure issues. He said while he wanted the community to have a voice, if that doesn’t work out there will be a district-building safety committee at the least.
Following the 13th school shooting in the nation this year, Board President Paul Abbott said more communication is needed of everyone’s concerns. He said he feels the District has safety as a top priority, “I think it’s important that people know and understand what we’re doing. I absolutely agree that it’s really important that everyone has a voice and an opportunity to express their concerns. I guess as far as the Safety Committee geos, that is certainly a great avenue for that.”
Abbott added that if volunteers weren’t interested, he’d still want to see a committee that included people from every school building, bargaining unit, and student representatives.
Board Member Pat Slagle said he thinks it’ll take the community, including a Safety Committee, coming together to figure out the puzzle pieces to eliminate safety issues in the district. He said a lot of investment has been made to secure the schools including the recent over $400,000 investment in a secure vestibule entrance at Persell Middle School, “We have the Red Shirt program. We have the Red Shirts here tonight. SRO’s (School Resource Officers), that’s about $100,000 per SRO. We’ve increased social workers in school. We’ve increased mental health access. We’ve partnerships with the County to provide that. We have new programs to hopefully help reduce incidences of bullies in schools. We continue to reach out to community partners on how we can continue to affect these students who are no longer students, but causing issues in and around the schools.”
Slagle added that the board and district will continue to take all steps needed to keep students and staff safe.
Members of the community who are interested in joining the School District’s Safety Committee may contact that Administrative Offices at 716-483-4350.