Safety First in the SDMA

Safety First in the SDMA
Posted on 12/06/2018

Public schools provide many important services in communities across the country. In the School District of the Menomonie Area (SDMA), nothing is more important than keeping nearly 3,400 children healthy and safe as we work toward our mission of preparing ALL students to become lifelong learners, caring individuals, and responsible citizens.

With Lake Menomin already freezing over and winter starting to set in, school officials are well prepared for the possibility of delays and cancellations that may be needed due to inclement weather. To help ensure that communications related to school closings are received, now is a great time for parents to review contact information and communication preferences in the school district’s student management system. Road conditions can vary greatly across the school district, so even if classes are not cancelled, it is ultimately up to parents to decide whether or not to send a child to school on days when the weather is bad.

As previously reported, several safety improvements are underway in our schools with the help of nearly $375,000 in school safety grant funding that was secured by the SDMA earlier this year. In addition to some facility/site improvements and safety equipment purchases, building principals have been working with a safety consultant to audit school safety protocols and revise school safety plans.

Starting this week, the school district will be rolling out Securly’s Tipline and Auditor 24 service. Tipline will allow students to report threats of violence by sending anonymous tips via phone, text, or email; and Auditor 24 provides an around-the-clock risk assessment team to analyze school district network traffic flagged for a variety of potential concerns like self-harm, bullying, and other threatening behaviors. Potential threats to school safety may be reported to the tipline at www.securly.com/tip, by calling or texting 1-833-300-STOP, or by emailing tipline@securly.com. These new services- combined with the district’s existing online portal for reporting bullying through the school district website- will help SDMA staff members keep students healthy and safe.

Youth Suicide Prevention is another important safety topic that we take very seriously in the School District of the Menomonie Area. In conjunction with state law, each year the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) distributes literature to schools about preventing youth suicide. The information that is shared with school staff members focuses on the complexity of youth suicide, warning signs for staff members to be aware of, and instructions for what staff members can do when concerned about a student.

According to the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), multiple factors are involved when someone dies by suicide, and oversimplifying the reasons someone takes their own life is not helpful. Suicide is a complex problem that is often misunderstood when oversimplified, and research suggests factors that might contribute to suicide include: biological factors, precipitating factors, and triggering events. Examples of biological factors might include mental illness or losing a family member to suicide. Precipitating factors might include poor grades, feeling unsafe at school, victimization, or family rejection; and crisis/triggering events could include experiencing a major loss, humiliation or bullying, and having access to lethal means.

DPI literature states that suicide doesn’t usually happen out of the blue and that there is a misconception that asking about suicide can cause a student to attempt it. According to the DPI, this issue has been thoroughly studied and asking a student about suicidal intent does not cause a student to attempt suicide.

By working together between our schools and community, we can reduce the risk of youth suicide in Menomonie. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem; but for kids, their problems can seem endless at this stage. If we get them through the crisis, there is a 90 percent chance that they will never attempt suicide. ACT stands for Acknowledging feelings instead of minimizing them; Caring for the student by showing concern and taking the next step, and Telling a member of the school district’s crisis team, which often includes building principals and guidance counselors.

In the SDMA, students receive instruction on suicide prevention as part of the Romeo and Juliet unit in English class, QPR (Question/Persuade/Refer) instruction in health classes, and students in all grades are referred for targeted intervention when at-risk behaviors are identified. Other local mental health resources- including information about 24-hour crisis assistance- are also available through the Dunn County Health Department. The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program proclaims that “It’s OK to Ask4Help!” by calling 1-800-273-TALK.

Should school families or community stakeholders have any questions or concerns related to keeping children in our schools healthy and safe, I invite you to contact the administration at your child’s school, or visit me at the Administrative Service Center on Pine Avenue. More information about our schools can be found on the school district website (www.sdmaonline.com), and I regularly post school-related information on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sdmaonline) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/menomonie.schools)

*Thank you to SDMA Director of Technology Katie Krueger for contributing to this column.