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School Matters: Roseau Addresses School Safety

School Matters  submitted for publication on Nov. 3, 2018 in the Roseau Times Region

By:  Larry Guggisberg – Roseau Supt. of Schools


Roseau Addresses School Safety

As Supt. of Schools I have used this column to inform the public of events, activities  and happenings in our schools for nearly two decades, and that applies to this week’s column as well.   Over time, I have written about school matters that emphasize the positive in our schools, but, every once in a while we have to bring forward a topic that may give us a black eye.  On behalf of the school, I would like to share with you information regarding an incident that occurred on Oct. 30th, the investigation that followed, and the plan immediately following the incident. 

This past Tuesday morning, the school was notified via a student’s social media Snapchat of a threatening message written in a men’s bathroom in the High School.   The message was found written in pencil on a toilet paper dispenser. The message was small in size and due to the dark shade of color of the dispenser, it was barely legible. Regardless, we take the safety of students and staff seriously.  Due to the nature of the message, local law enforcement was asked to assist with an investigation.  We used the aid of law enforcement, video surveillance, individual student interviews and even offered a reward for information to students to collect information about the message. Through this process, we learned the message had actually been in the bathroom for an extended period of time.  With various details and information collected, we felt confident the message was not credible.  As a result, at no time was the school in a lockdown or an evacuation.  We continued the day as normal with an increased presence of law enforcement in our schools.  The Roseau Police Dept. and Roseau County Sheriff Dept. were excellent with their rapid response and assistance with investigation efforts and simply being present in our schools.  The investigation will continue.

As a school, we understand there was widespread concern throughout the community and specifically with parents. We live in a time where most are digitally connected.  This can sometimes be beneficial, but sometimes social media can also be a source of incomplete information.  We can appreciate the fact that many parents felt most comfortable having their children at home.  We support that choice and feel that you, as parents, need to always make the best choices that fit your family.  The following day, the school had an increased law enforcement presence with school in session as normal.   

Your teachers, building principals and staff members demonstrated remarkable personal and professional composure this past week.  The day after the incident, many high school teachers used the incident to talk to their students about responsible use of social media, decision making based on facts and students who see something to say something to a responsible adult.

Related to school safety, over the past several months, the school administration has discussed and received School Board approval to limit access to the school buildings.     The goal of limiting door access is not to deter involvement in our schools but to aid the school district in having and/or creating a safe learning environment for our students and staff.   We wish to remain a school where students’ families and community members feel welcome use our school facilities.  During parent-teacher conferences on Nov. 8-9, the school will have a display for parents indicating door access that will be in effect beginning Nov. 12. 

In summary, during the school day, three doors (entrances) will be open and the remaining nearly 80 doors will be locked to prevent access from the outside.   Entrance to the Elementary School will be thru the main school entrance on the north side of the school.  This entrance is labeled N1.  Entrance for use of community facilities such as the pool and fitness center will be the west parking lot school entrance labeled W5.   The entrance to the High School will be thru the west parking lot entrance for the Math Wing/Study Hall Room labeled at W3.

Can we do things to improve the safety and security of our students and staff yet remain a Community School?  The short answer is Yes.  There is all kinds of GOOD in the world, however, less than wholesome events and actions in the world and society we live in have changed and schools need to make adjustments as a response to these changes.    GO RAMS!