My take on safety and security at Souhegan

While safety/security data and solutions are still under consideration at Souhegan High School (SHS), it is time to review the status and state some facts from this SHS School Board member’s perspective.

The SHS School Board must weigh the concerns of all members of the community, because they are the elected body and empowered by NH State Statutes.

The benefits of culture and student agency are and will always be important aspects of the growth of our students. It is also important to hear the insights and ideas of the faculty and staff.

The trust relationship and culture between faculty and students have been in place since inception of SHS. However, times are changing. The dangers that exist today, like an active shooter situation, have increased dramatically. There has been one school shooting per week nationwide since 2013 according to Every Town Research (https://everytownresearch.org/school-shootings/). And, specifically, active shooter situations have become much more common than in 1992 when SHS opened.

The frequency of other crimes (Amherst Police Department [APD] terminology) is consequential. On average, three crimes are reported every four days of school at SHS. 130 crimes at SHS have been reported to the SHS Administration and APD in the school year 2016-2017; and, at the half-way point in the 2017-18 school year, 64 crimes have been reported. These crimes range from harassment (bullying) to thefts to assaults.

Security cameras provide the SHS Administration the opportunity to review what happened, settle, and determine fault. This, in turn, has the effect of acting as a deterrent and reducing the crime rate. Responsiveness to these incidents make the school safer for all students and faculty.

SHS is a public facility and is available for public use. This includes plays, sporting events, competitions with other schools, elections, etc. The SHS Board is responsible for safety and security, and bears liability for the public use of the facility. The trust relationship earlier described does not provide a safety shield for these public events.

Safety and Security Best Practices for educational facilities were created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The APD and the DHS Best Practices includes Access Control and the use of security cameras on the interior and exterior of buildings.

The SHS School Board motion to investigate security cameras was voted unanimously on October of 2016. With the current process, the first budgeted dollars that can be spent will be no earlier than July of 2019, a full two years and nine months later for an ever-increasing security risk.

Currently, the SHS School Board has allocated funds and selected a consulting firm, Safe Havens International, to provide an analysis of the school’s security needs. The Community Council has approved the selection of Safe Havens International and continues to evaluate and make recommendations in preparation of their final report.

Not every decision in the school needs to be a lesson in student agency. Believing in the trust relationship between faculty and students is not violated by security cameras.

At some point in the discussion on Safety and Security, the school board will be called to decide what a safe and secure environment is for all members of the community. When that time arrives, hopefully common sense, good judgement, leadership, and logic will prevail; and I will side with Best Practices for safety and security.

Souhegan Co-operative School District member

David Chen

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