After two weeks filled with national student led walkouts and marches calling for increased school safety, the Snoqualmie Valley School Board and its two appointed student board representatives, Chirag Vedullapalli & Mallory Golic, dug into the topic at the March 22nd board meeting.
Chirag and Mallory recapped the board on student efforts around improving Mount Si school safety and offered student ideas they believed could be implemented in the coming months.
Many of the ideas were generated by student school safety forums held during both MSHS lunches on March 7th where approximately 50 students attended – and also during meetings with the MSHS Political Science Club.
The ideas included closing and locking classroom doors once class began; more emphasis and increased awareness of the ‘See Something Say Something’ campaign and the anonymous Threat Tip Line; more emphasis on Suicide Prevention as students noted this is also a scary issue for them; increased mental health counselor presences at school and possibly adding another School Resource Officer (SRO).
Mallory Golic noted in the presentation the importance of mental health counselors, saying they are “very, very necessary to prevent all kinds of crisis.” Chirag Vedullapalli noted the importance of the SRO who has the ability to immediately diffuse many conflicts. Officer Kim Stonebraker, who currently serves as the SVSD SRO, oversees both MSHS and Two Rivers. Her salary is shared by the district and the City of Snoqualmie.
The two students said they also presented their ideas to Mount Si teachers at a recent staff meeting – and said some teachers have already begun implementing their suggestion to close and lock classroom doors. Superintendent Aune said they know this is a best practice shift – noting that not too long ago an open door often positively reflected on a teacher – but now they’ve learned from school shooting safety experts that locked doors significantly reduce student risk during active shooter incidents. He even noted that one expert stated no shooter had ever broken their way through a locked door.
As for what could be implemented now, Golic and Vedullapalli asked the board to consider installing a visitor buzz in system at Mount Si similar to what other SVSD schools currently use. They also asked the board to consider opening the MSHS campus. Golic noted that although students say they do want security, they don’t want to feel ‘trapped like in prison.’
If the campus is to remained closed, she asked the board to consider a system where ASB cards could give students in/out building privileges and also help the attendance office track who comes and goes. Golic said if this could not be implemented now, possibly such a system could be used at the new high school.
Golic and Vedullapalli are also working with 5th District State Legislators to schedule a future school safety forum in the Snoqualmie Valley. They also plan to travel to Olympia next year to meet with representatives, possibly bringing along teachers as chaperones. During an upcoming MSHS advisory period they will also present to students about how to contact their local legislators to share ideas.
Superintendent Aune said these student school safety programming ideas came at the perfect time as the district is currently planning a budget for the coming school year. He encouraged the student board reps to schedule a time to meet with Asst. Superintendent Jeff Hogan and discuss what implementations might be possible.
It was also noted during the meeting that the district is working on grants to fund a mental health counselor at Mount Si.
Board President Carolyn Simpson commented, “We have an unprecedented increase in funding from the state as well as from the support of our local taxpayers with the recently passed levies. Enhancing the number of our college and career planning counselors, so that students have better access to a counselor, and adding more counselors devoted only to social and emotional health has been long discussed. Now is the time, with this funding, to make these changes, in my opinion, and I hope we can engage in these actions soon. ”