Bend-La Pine Schools chief reacts to tragedy

Wilkinson offers sympathies, talks of Safe Schools Alliance

BEND, Ore. - Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Ron Wilkinson offered his "deepest sympathies following Friday's Connecticut school shooting rampage, offered resources for parents and talked of how the Safe Schools Alliance tries to prevent similar tragedies in Central Oregon.

Here's his statement, in full:

A letter to our community from Superintendent Ron Wilkinson:

Words cannot express how my heart is breaking for the parents who lost children today, for the men and women who lost their spouses and best friends, the staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the entire community of Newtown, Connecticut.  On behalf of our entire school district, I send our deepest sympathies.

Our children are our hope for the future, our greatest joy, and a treasure. I take nothing more seriously than the safety and security of every one of our students. During the more than seven hours each day they are in our care, we treat them as if they were our own children and protect them with the fervor of a mother bear.

Whenever a national tragedy occurs, children, like many people, may be confused or frightened. Most likely they will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react.  Parents and school personnel can help children cope first and foremost by establishing a sense of safety and security. As more information becomes available, adults can continue to help children work through their emotions and perhaps even use the process as a learning experience.

I encourage you to take a look at this link as there is helpful information for parents about how they can help their children cope with the news of this terrible tragedy in Connecticut:

On Monday, we will have counselors and administrators at each school that can further support students who may be struggling with this unthinkable act of violence. Please reach out to us.

Every student has the right to attend school in a safe environment free of harassment, intimidation, threats to personal safety or any form of violence.

Our district and all central Oregon districts bonded together after the tragedy at Thurston High School in the late 90's and created the Safe Schools Alliance (SSA).

The Safe Schools Alliance is a network of school districts, police officers, and local agencies that meet on a monthly basis to share information, discuss items of common interest and concern, and advise member agencies on the adoption of policy and procedures that keep students safe.

All of our schools use the Safe Schools Assessments to guide their day-to-day safety audits.  These audits include everything from assessments of entry points, fencing, parking facilities, restrooms, classrooms, security systems, access control, and cafeterias, to name a few.

All of our school administrators continually review their Safe Schools protocols and make necessary adjustments in their schools to ensure continued safety.

Through this alliance, have trained safety personnel, including police officers, who work at all of our schools. We have on-going relationships with local law enforcement. Student safety is, and will continue to be, our top priority.

Please continue to empower your children to have an open dialog with you - and their teachers, coaches, bus drivers, and all school staff - about their education, their lives, and their school's safety.  Today, and any day, if you hear or see anything that seems out of the ordinary, please call 9-1-1 so that police can investigate immediately.

Please know that we take our role as custodians of your children while they are under our care very seriously and do all we can to ensure their safety and well-being.

Situations like this remind us that life is a precious and fragile gift. As our President reminded us, hug your children tonight.

Ron Wilkinson, Superintendent

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