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School district addresses campus safety and de-escalation training

Meeting in the evening on Feb. 14 in Quincy, the Plumas County Office of Education’s Governing Board approved updated comprehensive school safety plans for all campuses and heard a report on de-escalation training for staff.

Trustees Joleen Cline, Dave Keller, Dwight Pierson and Traci Holt, clerk of the board, joined Board President Leslie Edlund for the meeting, which occurred as news agencies were reporting a shooting tragedy that unfolded earlier in the day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

School safety plans

Voting 5-0, the board reviewed and approved school safety plan compliance documents for Chester Elementary, Chester Junior-Senior High, C. Roy Carmichael Elementary, Greenville Junior-Senior High, Indian Valley Elementary, Plumas County Community School, Portola Junior-Senior High, Quincy Elementary and Quincy Junior-Senior High.

The plans are updated on a regular basis and cover everything from disaster procedures and school discipline to bomb threats, evacuations, child abuse reporting, hate crime procedures and much more.

The comprehensive plans are the result of California Education Code requirements for all schools that operate K-12 programs. Districts must write and develop school safety plans that are relevant to the needs and resources of each particular school.

Each plan contains detailed guidelines and requirements, including the statement, “The Governing Board recognizes that students and staff have a right to a safe and secure campus where they are free from physical and psychological harm. The Board is fully committed to maximizing school safety and to creating a positive learning environment that includes strategies for violence prevention and high expectations for student conduct, responsible behavior and respect for others.”

De-escalation training completed

Laura Blesse, Director of SELPA and Pupil Services for the district, coordinated a recent training program on de-escalation skills for school site administrative assistants, registrars, attendance clerks and front-line staff.

The training was conducted by Plumas Rural Services and offered a trauma-informed approach for district employees to use in their public service interactions. Practical skills were provided for de-escalating situations that commonly arise, according to the school district.

Additional emphasis was placed upon the importance of “self-care” for staff that routinely find themselves in situations that require de-escalation skills.

“It was a fantastic opportunity and we appreciated the training,” said Patty McCutcheon who serves as the executive assistant to PUSD Superintendent Terry Oestreich.

“We spent a lot of time talking about being prepared,” Blesse told the school board. “It was a valuable training to bring to them and we will continue to improve our communications. We don’t thank our employees enough for their excellent work and service. This was an opportunity to do that.”

Civility requirements

In other business, the board reconvened as the Plumas Unified School District’s Board of Education and considered a proposed new Board Policy 1313 on civility.

The policy clearly outlines district expectations regarding how staff treats parents and other members of the public, and seeks to promote mutually respectful conduct among district employees, parents and the public.

“Plumas Unified School District and Plumas County Office of Education employees shall treat parents and other members of the public with respect and expect the same in return,” is the opening statement of the new policy.

The document explains the district’s intent to keep schools, administrative facilities and other properties free from disruptions, to prevent unauthorized persons from entering school district premises, and also clearly lays out the consequences for disrespectful and disruptive behavior.

The trustees approved the new policy 5-0 with requests to amend the document to address some other areas of civility as well.

“We have addressed more issues with this during this year than we have since 2010,” Superintendent Oestreich told the board. “We are raising the bar for what is and is not acceptable on school campuses. The new policy will be nice for school sites because it shows the board’s support and our staff are looking for it.”

Holt asked the board and staff to consider amending the policy language to address electronic communications and cross-reference other PUSD policies that cover expectations for civility in written and electronic communication.

“As written, this is mostly dealing with verbal issues. Is there a way to deal with emails that the staff receive and those that board members receive?” Holt asked.

The school administrative staff said, yes, those issues could be included in the new policy directions.

“What about dealing with social media, too?” Cline mentioned.

Board President Edlund concurred that the civility policy should cover all communications, whether in person, in writing or by other means.

“”It’s critical that we model the behavior we’re expecting,” said Pierson. “I like that this establishes the norms for civility and will certainly address what is expected for those behaviors.”

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