Highline schools take community approach to tackle gun violence

SEATTLE -- One district is taking a community approach to increase school safety.

On Thursday, Highline Public Schools staff, families, and community organizations gathered to talk about gun violence and prevention efforts.

“I can’t really even think about it without getting upset for the parents, and having to encounter that kind of violence in your schools is not the kind of thing you want our children to have to even think about,” said parent Stephani Scanlan.

It’s what Scanlan doesn’t want to think about.  After all, she has a high school kid and elementary student to worry about.

“What can we do to make sure our children are safe in our schools?” asked Scanlan.

That’s what about 60 people made up of Highline Schools staff, parents, and students are trying to figure out in a community discussion about gun violence.

Some ideas included more law enforcement in school.

“My daughter goes to Highline and it seems like there’s always a (police) presence there,” said a parent.

“We can’t put the responsibility for solutions just on law enforcement or just on the community or just on the district or just on schools or just on families,” said Highline Public Schools Superintendent Susan Enfield.

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But the school district is doing more to run lockdown drills and prepare for a shooting.

“Some training around what if there is a shooter in the school, what do they do?” said Enfield.

A 2016 bond measure will pay for school safety upgrades, including installing automatic door locks and electronic card readers at entrance doors of all schools.  The district also plans to use some of the bond money to update all interior classroom doors with electronic locks that can be locked remotely by security or school administration.

But Highline’s superintendent says prevention starts with getting to know each student’s strengths and struggles.

“It is going to be that student or that teacher who notices a young person who is acting differently, who is saying something differently. We’ve had instances where students have seen something on social media and have reported it to the school district and we’ve been able to intervene,” said Enfield.

District staff admit they don’t have all the answers, that’s why they want input from the community.  It’s something Scanlan is hoping will save her kids’ lives.

“Try and prevent them from ever having to go through something like that,” said Scanlan.

The district will host three more community discussions about school safety.