Saturday, September 21, 2019

Franklin Public Schools: An Important Message from the Superintendent

September 20, 2019

Dear Franklin Families and Faculty/Staff,

I am writing as it is a good time to provide some information about school security and safety.

Some Information Related to the Newly Issued PSA

You may have heard about or seen the Sandy Hook Promise PSA that was issued within the last day or so. This video contains some content that is very difficult to watch. It reminds us all of the importance of our safety and security practices in the unlikely event of an active shooter situation.

As parents/guardians, you may wish to prohibit your child from viewing the PSA. New research is pointing to negative mental health consequences including increased anxiety and hypervigilance among children from exposure to active shooter training and media coverage. As a school system, we try to strike a balance between informing/preparing our students with tools to keep them safe while shielding them from overexposure.

Children's belief that adults around them know what to do to protect them helps them cope with their anxiety and stress related to school safety worries. You can assist them and us by providing reassurance, as developmentally appropriate, to your children in this regard. At the end of this letter, we provide an informative reminder about our safety practices.

You may be looking for resources to assist your child. This resource, from the American Psychological Association, may be of assistance to you:

Counselors, teachers, and administrators are available to help any student who may be experiencing difficulty. Please reach out to any member of the administration if we can be of help in any way. The School Resource Officers are also an avenue of support for questions and concerns from families.

Information about How We Respond When We Receive a Report of a Threat

We have seen an increase in students and families exercising the "see it-say it" aspect of our safety protocols and we thank you for that. It reflects on the positive relationships and supportive culture of our schools. When we receive a report of an alleged threat, the school administrators launch an investigation in collaboration with the Franklin Police Department. The credibility and seriousness of the threat must be determined by this team, who are trained in making this determination.

Based on the nature of the facts determined from the investigation, the school administrators will take appropriate steps. The police may, as well, if appropriate and based on their investigation. Administrative measures often include support and safety plans for the students involved. Interventions are put in place and may include therapeutic support. Disciplinary consequences may also be applied, if appropriate. When communications are issued to families, privacy laws require us to keep certain information confidential.

We are balancing providing the community with information and assurances of safety with the privacy rights of those involved. In all cases, we wish to assure you that we take these reports with the utmost seriousness and collaborate with our school resource officer partners to investigate and respond appropriately. We are so fortunate to be supported by a stellar team of five School Resource Officers and their supervising officer.

An Informative Reminder of Safety Practices in FPS

The safety and well-being of Franklin students and staff are our highest priority. Our buildings remain locked and well-supervised when school is in session; all visitors must check-in at reception upon arrival and present identification. Organizations that use our facilities after hours are required to have a door monitor that supervises the entry and exit of guests to our buildings.

Security cameras provide coverage around all of our buildings. Additionally, we have a capital plan in place to upgrade and add to our security cameras and other security features to enhance coverage. We have open communication with the Franklin Fire and Police Departments, and our response teams regularly review and practice safety protocols and procedures through training with staff and students.

We continue to refine our practices through continuing education on best practices within the field of school safety. Last year (the 2018-19 school year), the entire faculty and staff across the district engaged in deeper training with experts in the field based on new information and practices. We will continue to reinforce this in 2019-20.

We also stress climate and culture in each of our schools, centering our work around core values and relationships. It is important that each student feels connected to an adult and we strive to ensure we have supports in place to help students in crisis. We emphasize the importance of speaking up when there is a concern, and we have examples when students, parents/guardians, and staff have come forward to bring a concern about a friend or classmate to an administrator's attention.

As always, parents/guardians or staff members with concerns about safety should contact the building principal with specific questions.


Sara Ahern
Superintendent of Schools

Sara Ahern, Superintendent of Schools - presenting at a recent School Committee meeting
Sara Ahern, Superintendent of Schools - presenting at a recent School Committee meeting

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