Federal Way school safety conversation continues

Students in the civic engagement club at Mark Twain Elementary School unveiled an anti-bully mural June 18, 2012, at the children
Students in the civic engagement club at Mark Twain Elementary School unveiled an anti-bully mural June 18, 2012, at the children's playground at Celebration Park.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

From tighter security and more cameras to anti-bully awareness, Federal Way's conversation about school safety in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy continues.

Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) Deputy Superintendent Mark Davidson gave a security update at the school board's Feb. 26 meeting. Davidson touched on what the district has been doing since the fateful events in Newtown, Conn., last December.

Security audits have been taking place at all of the district's elementary schools, and those audits are now being done for the secondary schools.

Dave Remmem, safety and security manager for FWPS, is currently doing safety audits at each school, Davidson said.

"He's completed the audits at the 23 K-8 (schools) we have," Davidson said. "He's now working with the secondary schools, and once that's completed, Federal Way Police Department, school security and each principal will be working together on the plans that prioritize needs and address the issues identified in the audits."

Board Vice President Angela Griffin asked Davidson if the results of the audits will be shared with the school communities.

"How are we being transparent with our parents and guardians and students, around the work we're doing in each individual school?" she asked.

"We will want to communicate very clearly. Now obviously we won't want to communicate some of the weaknesses we find, because it can, unfortunately, give the bad guys information they can use," Davidson replied. "But we certainly can talk about things in general, and I will be expecting that each principal addresses their school community with what's happening, what we're able to do, even what we're not able to do, because some of those things can have tremendous costs, and we have to prioritize and determine what makes the most sense to be the safest."

Cameras and anti-bully efforts

Davidson noted that Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson and officers met with FWPS officials, and various school and staff administrators recently, to talk about how things should proceed in case of an emergency or violent event like Sandy Hook.

The deputy superintendent touched on the new security camera system the district was able to get after the successful passage of the school levy last fall.

"We're working on a camera plan. Thank you voters, again," he said. The plan includes additional cameras where needed, replacing digital video recorders with network video recorders, making the entire system is digital, and connecting the entire system to the city of Federal Way's Safe City system.

Along with all of these actions, Davidson said the district will educate students and staff as best they can on being aware, and also on anti-bullying efforts and similar ideas, to stop any potential violence before it ever starts.

"This is one of the most important things we do. We continually stress the vigilance of staff members, students, and the communities surrounding our schools. Because, frankly, being aware is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. That's when you're walking to your car, that's when you're at work, that's when you're at the mall," he said. "We have an emphasis on (prevention of) harassment, intimidation and bullying at all schools, helping all students understand…and talk about that."

Davidson said the district will continue to try and address the difficult balance between safety and openness at Federal Way schools.

"Ten-foot fences around our schools with a single gate would, quite frankly, be safer," he said. "I don't believe any of us want to work, or send our children, to that kind of place. It doesn't help the future of teaching people how to deal with these things and reducing violence."


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