Student safety is a top priority of the Kenosha Unified School District. For several years, the district has worked to ensure our students and staff are safe in our schools by implementing best practices to achieve this goal.
One area of focus has been the use of positive behavior intervention and supports (PBIS) to address behavior and bullying. This began with some schools launching the program individually, and grew to a districtwide initiative after a board-appointed committee researched best practices to avert bullying in schools.
PBIS is known and used by schools throughout the nation for its work in providing capacity for implementing a multi-tiered approach to social, emotional and behavioral support.
Along with PBIS, the committee presented recommended changes to the board regarding anti-bullying, harassment and hate policy 5111 in July 2014. Following the adoption of the changes, employees received training on how to educate students and families on the definition of bullying and all it entails.
The district also developed a process for investigating bullying and harassment complaints and how to properly document incidents.
In July 2015, administrators were trained in ALiCE (alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate) to better prepare them to more proactively handle the threat of an aggressive intruder or active shooter. The following year all staff were trained. Annual training continues for new staff and as a refresher for existing staff.
The district also created and implemented lesson plans for students that are reviewed annually. Student lessons begin in September and continue throughout the school year, with a safety drill taking place each quarter.
Additionally, trauma-sensitive training is another safety focus that addresses how to recognize behavior associated with trauma and how to address those behaviors. The staff has learned about the adverse childhood experiences and how they can affect students, and KUSD is now expanding trauma training to include courses on youth mental health first aid and trauma-informed schools practices.
In 2018, KUSD applied for two safety grants and received more than $2 million in funding to support safety upgrades. One of the requirements of the grant was to conduct a school safety assessment of all schools, which was accomplished by the facilities department in partnership with our school resource officers. The results of the assessments have been shared with building leaders to ensure all safety practices are implemented as required.
In February 2019, teams of district administrators and counselors, along with representatives from the Kenosha Police Department, Pleasant Prairie Police Department, Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office, Kenosha Human Services and others were trained on threat assessment and have begun the implementation process in partnership with our community partners.
Schools also were trained on the STOPit app, which is an anonymous tip line students can use to report cases of bullying, threats to schools, threats to other students or threats to harm themselves. These reports are sent directly to school staff for investigation.
Lastly, we also conducted a student and parent/guardian survey this year to help address issues that students and/or families feel are important and may need more attention. The results are being compiled and will be provided to principals within the next few weeks.
Overall, KUSD continues to research and implement best practices in an effort to keep our students and staff safe and comfortable in their learning environment. It is a top priority to provide an environment conducive to learning in order to achieve our goal of preparing students for success.
Sue Valeri is chief of school leadership for the Kenosha Unified School District.