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TIM LUTZ COLUMN: School safety is our prime directive

School safety has always been a top priority of ISD 31. We know parents send their children to us each day, and that is a huge responsibility we take very seriously.

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A recent Pioneer story about school safety initiatives quoted me as saying, “Some people say that teaching is a school district’s main responsibility. However, school safety is really our prime directive. We take that very seriously.”

That quote is accurate.

My point in saying that is simple: we cannot teach or learn if we do not feel safe in our schools.

As American psychiatrist and researcher Abraham Maslow in his “Hierarchy of Needs,” we must meet the basic needs of people before they can develop and grow.

Maslow’s hierarchy has seven levels of need that people must meet in order to thrive. The most basic of these needs are physiological (physical needs), safety, belongingness and love. 

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In short, if schools do not keep the environment healthy and safe, employees and students cannot do their best to teach and learn. This is why school districts work so hard to keep buildings and facilities well lit, warm and safe. Nothing else can happen if these basic needs are not provided.

School safety has always been a top priority of ISD 31. We know parents send their children to us each day, and that is a huge responsibility we take very seriously. One of the reasons we take this seriously can best be told in an email I received a few days ago:

Dear Mr. Lutz

This coming Monday, March 21, most of our community will go about their day as a normal Monday. However, for a large part of our community, Monday, March 21, is a day of anxiety, sadness and pain.

The day marks the 17th anniversary of the Red Lake High School Shooting. On that day our community was changed forever. At the time it was the second deadliest school shooting in the United States.

Unfortunately, it is now the fifth deadliest school shooting. To this day, it is still unimaginable a tragedy of this nature could happen in our community.

I am a survivor of that day. It has been a very hard road we have all had to travel. It was our “worst day” and it happened at school. We will never “recover” or “get over it.”

What we have become is resilient and determined. We have kids and grandkids now; we want to make sure they will never experience a day like March 21, 2005.

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School safety is not the responsibility of one person, it is the responsibility of the entire community. I am so pleased to see how, as a community, we have come together to support school safety.

A few weeks ago, ISD 31 along with Trek North High School, and area first responders and law enforcement agencies, rolled out our Emergency Communication Plans.

We are using the Standard Response Protocol from the “I Love You Guys” Foundation . Even more exciting is that we know other area schools will be adopting the SRP in the coming months.

Just last week, the school district sent out a press release and a message to parents with information about the Standard Response Protocol.

Our hope is that parents and grandparents will take the time to read this information and learn about the protocols and lexicon the district and first responders use in emergencies.

Since safety is the responsibility of the entire community, we all need to be prepared for a potential crisis or emergency in order to keep our schools safe.

The late poet Maya Angelou wrote these words of wisdom: “I’ve learned people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As a community, we need to help our students and professionals feel safe if we are going to expect excellence in teaching and learning.

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Our students, staff and parents deserve to feel that our schools are safe and sound. Students cannot learn and teachers cannot teach when they do not feel safe.

Tim Lutz is superintendent of Bemidji Area Schools. He can be reached via email at tim_lutz@isd31.net .

Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Tim Lutz
Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Tim Lutz. (Pioneer file photo)
(Pioneer file photo)

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