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Wyoming County Schools’ campaign designed to improve safety | | #schoolsaftey

It may appear to be no more than a passerby peeping in vehicle windows. Or maybe someone tries several side or rear entries into a school. Maybe a strange vehicle makes several passes by a school.

Maybe another student is acting nervous or is suddenly combative when always before he was placid.

Anything out of the ordinary may constitute a threat to student or staff safety. That is why Wyoming County Schools has adapted a national campaign, originally built around terrorism, to raise public awareness of the threat of school violence in any form.

“See Something, Say Something” provides students, staff, parents, and other individuals the opportunity to report any suspicious behavior at any time, explained John Henry, assistant schools superintendent.

Every school in the county now exhibits a banner containing a QR code. A QR (quick response) code consists of black or colored pixels on a white background – a type of barcode loaded with specific information – which can be read by an imaging device.

Thus students, staff, or parents can use their phones to scan the QR code and report any suspicious behavior to the central office.

“Then we can act quickly,” Henry emphasized.

The names of those making the reports will not be made public, Henry noted.

The QR code will also be available on handouts and on buses.

Schools officials are also using a video campaign via social media to raise awareness.

Students may also share concerns with an adult at the school, he said.

The system can also be used by students or parents to report harassment, bullying, thefts, vandalism, drug use, weapons possession, unauthorized photos or videos, among other incidents.

Henry noted that schools officials hope to see students and staff use the system more frequently. Similar campaigns in other locations have foiled attempts at violence and saved lives, according to officials.

“Safety is always a top concern,” Henry emphasized. “You can’t have academic growth if it’s not a safe environment.

“There is a national buzz,” Henry said of similar campaigns. “We’ve tried to put our own Wyoming County spin on it – adapt it to our needs.

“This is another avenue students and staff can use to report anything suspicious, then we can act quickly.

“We want our kids to know that their voice matters,” Henry emphasized.

Both high schools have Prevention Resource Officers (PROs) – experienced deputies working under the authority of the county Sheriff’s Department. They are in the school buildings to provide security for the students and staff and trained to identify situations that may escalate into trouble.

Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Cook is assigned to Wyoming County East High and Sgt. Kenny Wallen is stationed at Westside High.

The deputies handle any criminal activity, violence or threats of violence in the building, fights, among other incidents.

Additionally, the officers handle drug violations, which includes vaping. Inhaling, and exhaling, the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device is considered vaping.

Vapor products, such as electronic cigarettes and vapor pens, are now classified as drug paraphernalia in county schools due to the extreme threat to students’ health.

Also, the deputies facilitate non-traditional classes designed to open student discussions on drug abuse, tobacco and tobacco-substitute products, cyber bullying, among other topics, according to officials.

The officers want the students to see them as someone they can trust, someone they can come to with a problem, someone who cares about them as an individual.

They also strive to get to know each student well enough to identify potential issues before they become significant problems.

The deputies are armed, drive police cruisers, and make arrests in the event of any criminal offense.

The officers also visit the feeder schools for both high schools, explained Wyoming County Sheriff Brad Ellison.

The students, staff as well as parents can share concerns with the officers, Ellison said.

With the violent events that have occurred in other locations, Ellison said his department often discusses the possibilities and plans of action.

“We’ve also conducted practice drills and exercises at both high schools,” he said.

Additionally, deputies make random visits to all the schools across the county – during the school day, in the evening as well as in the wee hours of the morning.

“Anything can happen at anytime,” Ellison said, “and we want to be ready.

“Whatever the situation is, these officers will go straight into it. They will confront it immediately,” the sheriff emphasized.

“We have been blessed with the partnership with law enforcement in our county,” Henry said of the sheriff’s department and municipal police departments.

The partnerships are really important to student safety, Henry said.

“They do routine safety checks during the day, sometimes at night.

“We couldn’t do this without them.”

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