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Campus Counts thinks outside the campus security box

One of the most challenging aspects of being a school administrator is addressing the ongoing concerns about student and staff security

campus-counts-securityWhen I moved into my position as the Assistant Superintendent in Longview ISD, one of my tasks was to re-evaluate the safety and security of our campuses.

Longview ISD sits in the piney woods of east Texas along the I-20 Corridor and is one of the largest school districts in East Texas. It has a very diverse population of over 8,000 students and 1,200 staff members, and it encompasses 14 campuses and numerous auxiliary buildings which serve students.

The challenge I faced with safety measures dealt mainly with the lack of consistency in safety and security practices throughout the district and the varied needs for the many campuses.

As I began my review, I determined that all of the necessary safety and security tools were current. Locking doors, cameras, security officers, check in systems and security plans were all in place. As I compared our district to numerous other districts that had experienced school shootings and disasters, I realized that each had basically the same procedures and practices in place, yet shootings had still occurred.

(Next page: How Campus Counts keeps students safe)

Our administrative team began to question what we could do differently to eliminate potential issues before they occur. As we looked around for solutions, Pave Systems and Campus Counts continued to appear in our research.

Campus Counts is a program that is currently used in universities all over the country. It was initiated in response to the Virginia Tech University shootings. The university initiated this program to address student issues before a disaster occurs.

At Longview, we surmised from the research that school shootings are preceded by behaviors and actions that are normally recognized or identified by staff, students and/or others; however, these behaviors or actions are normally never addressed.

The Campus Counts system is a database that allows the district to input campus incidents (campus discipline, threats, unusual behaviors, out-cries through writings, pictures or social media), behaviors that are law enforcement related (on and off campus), and community incidents that students and parents may be aware of (e.g. church, neighborhood, community organizations). The system allows for anonymous reporting of these incidents into the database and gives school administrators, counselors and staff the opportunity to address issues as they become apparent.

PAUSE HERE FOR A SECOND. Realize this is not about the disciplining or expulsion of students who have issues. It is about early interventions and a pro-active approach to eliminate the possibility of tragic events. This system has allowed Longview ISD to have a portal of information that can identify potential mental health issues, suicide, inappropriate behaviors, bullying, academic concerns, child safety concerns as well as other issues.

The system allows for input from teachers, staff, students, parents, law enforcement and the entire community. As a district, we believe that Campus Counts is an out of the box solution to address student issues before a tragedy occurs. Campus principals monitor the database, meet regularly with their care teams, address potential issues and construct student plans to address the concerns identified by the reporting system.

Some have questioned the problem of the labeling of students; however, we believe that it is our duty not only to address students who have academic issues but to address students who are having behavioral and/or mental health issues which could jeopardize the safety of all students.

I recommend that, as school districts continue to look at better ways of keeping our students safe, they should look outside the box of normal security measures and address the issue at the heart of the problem, which is individual student behavior. Campus Counts is an important tool that all of us can use to ensure that our students are protected while they learn.

Jody Clements, PhD, is the Assistant Superintendent of Administrative and Pupil Services Longview ISD.

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