Local schools step up security, counseling after TX massacre
A day after a shooting spree left 19 students and two adults dead at a Texas elementary school, school districts in the Rogue Valley responded Wednesday by increasing police presence in and around their schools — with some saying that the presence would remain for the rest of the school year.
Natalie Hurd, communications and community engagement director for Medford schools, said city police provided more patrols around district schools, along with its usual four school resource officers making the rounds.
“It doesn’t go away. This is the reality, but we have to stay focused on our students right now. This is a time of celebration,” said Hurd, referring to activities leading up to graduation ceremonies.
SROs — uniformed police officers who are posted in and around schools — will be at all of the Medford School District’s “big events” in the coming weeks, including graduation, awards ceremonies and concerts, Hurd said.
Meanwhile, Central Point School District 6 and Kids Unlimited Academy — with campuses in White City and Medford — issued statements that not only expressed condolences for what happened at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, but confirmed an increase in law enforcement personnel working to help its schools.
Walt Davenport, superintendent of Central Point schools, said the district requested additional police presence and support from Central Point police and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. Up to 14 officers were present on Central Point school grounds Wednesday, a “significant increase” compared to the two who are typically assigned.
“Monitoring our school environments is important, and we will continue to seek additional presence as needed in the coming days and weeks leading up to the end of the school year,” Davenport said.
He acknowledged that each school level poses different challenges when faced with a crisis.
“Safety is a priority for all of our schools and all age levels,” Davenport said.
Sunshine Price, a Medford-based academic director and a principal for Kids Unlimited, said that KU’s standard school resource officer would check in on campus more frequently. Price couldn’t speculate for how long those extra visits would go on.
She said she has fielded calls from parents asking for more information on KU’s safety plan. A public presentation is in the works, with an SRO likely to be part of the conversation, Price said.
Other local school districts, including Ashland, Eagle Point and Rogue River, did not actively step up law enforcement around their schools Wednesday.
But Samuel Bogdanove, superintendent of Ashland schools, issued a statement Wednesday saying a 2018 bond that voters approved includes “several security enhancements at all sites.”
“We remain in a continuous evaluation and improvement cycle on all areas of safety and security while maintaining campuses that support learning and connecting. Safety is and must remain our first priority,” Bogdanove wrote.
KU and Central Point talked about staff members supporting students who might be emotional over the events that occurred in Texas or have questions about the incident.
KU’s Price said there was not a lot of inquiry about the massacre from her students Wednesday. However, one student had to be consoled while crying hard over the tragedy.
The institution noted in a statement on social media that its teachers would “have simple talking points” if students inquired about the incident.
Davenport, of Central Point, said the demand for counseling services was “minimal” Wednesday, but “we will stand ready as students process the situation and more information becomes public.”
Davenport called what happened in Texas “an absolute tragedy and much more than a wake-up call.”
“As more information becomes available, we will most certainly analyze what happened in Texas and evaluate our emergency preparedness plans and practices,” he wrote.
Bogdanove was pointed when it came to describing the massacre in Uvalde.
“The murder of children and educators is an incomprehensible reality of our times,” he wrote. “I also know that all of us feel the loss of the lives at Robb Elementary and the erosion of the sanctity of the classroom and schoolhouse. All of us want communities and schools that are safe places to live, learn and connect.”
Price said the shooting in Texas gives places like Kids Unlimited an opportunity to reflect on what it can do to prevent such a tragedy. She believes incidents like what happened Monday can be triggered by bullying and mental health issues.
“I can’t imagine what (Texas families) are going through, but I think at the end of the day, we want kids to be safe and we want parents to feel safe leaving their kids with us,” Price said. “It’s our obligation to ensure that we have all the procedures in place for something like this — not that you can ever fully prepare for it.”
Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.