Dear Neshaminy Community,
As we all continue to process the tragic events of Wednesday afternoon in Parkland, Florida, we would like to express our deepest sympathy to the people of Broward County. This is an unfortunate reminder of how fragile life can be and helps to remind us to count our own blessings every day.
As educators, we are acutely aware that our role in the community goes beyond classroom instruction. The safety and well-being of our students and staff is a primary, daily concern. In addition, we are also charged with promoting individual student social and emotional growth through life experiences. After an event like this week’s tragedy, our children will have many questions. It is important to take this opportunity to have age-appropriate conversations and give children the chance to express their thoughts and anxieties.
When something like this happens, it is fair to ask what Neshaminy School District is doing to protect the children in and around our schools. Our district administrative team, along with local law enforcement and emergency response personnel, work collaboratively to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone. Our Director of Security, Cliff Fiedler, a former FBI Special Agent who has been with the district full-time for four years, works with Building Emergency Teams (BET) in each of our schools. These teams meet monthly to review emergency response procedures and practices and work to constantly improve these systems and our security infrastructure.
- The district provides the Lower Southampton and Middletown Police Departments, along with the Pennsylvania State Police, with updated schematic floor plans. Additionally, the local police have door key fobs for all of our buildings; this allows for quick emergency response 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Our relationship with both Middletown and Lower Southampton police is excellent; both departments have officers patrol and walk our buildings on a daily basis.
- The district has a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with Middletown Township supporting a full-time Resource Officer who is stationed at the high school. This officer also supports security in other buildings, as needed.
- Over this past summer, the district renewed a contract for three years with an outside security service to provide three, full-time security guards at the high school. This is in addition to our own district security aides in that school.
- Last school year, the Bucks County Commissioner’s Office, with help from the Middletown Township Police department, provided our entire district staff the opportunity to access a smartphone app called School Guard. This app allows an employee to immediately notify any law enforcement personnel connected to the app, on or off duty, within a 15-mile radius of the school. During an emergency situation, using this app could dramatically improve response time.
- Each of our schools has an access control system, requiring visitors to be ‘buzzed in’ remotely. A camera is used for identification purposes.
- Double door security vestibules have been installed in each of our elementary and middle schools. At the high school, a staffed security station is located at the main entrance.
- On-line, visitor management systems are being installed in schools across the district; these are used as additional screening devices.
- All exterior doors are locked throughout the school day, limiting visitor access to one central location point.
- External doors are equipped with key fob systems for emergency access.
- An exterior building labeling project is under way throughout the district to improve emergency response capabilities.
- A total of 513 security cameras are currently installed throughout the district. Many are connected to ‘live’ monitoring stations, allowing district administrators and security staff constant updates. Existing cameras are regularly upgraded based on security staff recommendations.
- Monthly fire drills and building lock-down drills are conducted to familiarize students and staff with procedures for interior and exterior threats.
- Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate (ALICE) training has been provided to staff over the past three years. The District Director of Security is an ALICE-certified trainer and continues to offer building level training for staff to reinforce these procedures and tactics.
- Student internet activity on district devices, both in school and at home, is monitored daily for inappropriate and/or harmful content.
In addition to the above preparedness measures, we also work proactively to identify and address any student behavior that gives us cause for concern. Our Pupil Service staff (school counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists) are trained to identify students who display social and emotional risk factors. We also collaborate with outside agencies and local mental health care providers to identify and reach out to students who show signs of crisis.
We understand that this horrific event is truly hard to comprehend. Over the weekend, we ask that you talk with your children and reassure them that their safety at home and at school are a high priority for all of us. In addition, we have trained staff who can help you with post-crisis processing. Our staff has been on the lookout for students in need of assistance these past two days, but if you or your child are experiencing anxiety or concern that you would like help addressing, please reach out to your school administrator(s), counselors, or main office staff. For any other questions about security, please contact the Director of Security, Cliff Fiedler, at 215-809-6661, or Director of Administration, Paul Meehan, or me at 215-809-6500.
Attached to this letter are some support documents that may help promote the healing and understanding process.
Joseph Jones III
Tips for talking with children after a tragedy
Talking to your children about violence