A Message from the Superintendent

A Message from the Superintendent
Posted on 02/23/2018
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February 22, 2018

Dear Lakota Community,

The tragedy that occurred last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL has brought forth many concerns about the safety of our children. As a nation, we watched the news unfold, heartbroken for the 17 lives lost to a senseless act of violence. As a community, as a state, and as a nation, we look for answers on how to make sure that such a deplorable act does not happen again.

There is much heated debate about what the right answer is. I wish I knew. I wish it was easy. Unfortunately, it is not. I believe it is a complex issue with many different layers that must be considered. But as the superintendent of Lakota Local Schools, I can confidently assure you that the safety and security of our students and staff is our number one priority.

Lakota has implemented several new initiatives in recent years to increase the safety of our schools. That work never stops and our safety plans are never finalized. We are not complacent and it is not one person making the decisions. Our safety protocols are reviewed regularly by our District Safety Team, which consists of district administrators, all of our School Resource Officers (SRO), a member of our school board and representatives from our local law enforcement agencies. We continue to investigate and introduce new protocols that make sense to our district. In fact, there are several new safety initiatives that we have been researching over the past few months and will be announcing in the coming weeks.

Some aspects of our district safety plan are visible to the public, while others are not. In response to the last levy passage, we upgraded the safe and secure entrances at all of our buildings and have procedures in place with regard to the way visitors are welcomed into our schools. We also increased the number of SROs in our district from three to 10. The SROs are uniformed members of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office and West Chester Police Department. They are visible in our schools, not only to visitors, but also to our staff and students. Their presence allows them to build relationships with our students and become another trusted adult to confide in.

Training for our students and staff takes place all year long. This includes drills in case of natural disasters like fires or tornadoes, as well as lockdown, intruder and other safety measures. Lakota uses ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training to teach our students and staff what to do in the event of an intruder.

The health and well-being of our students is also part of safety and security in our schools. We are working to meet the social and emotional needs of our students and we continue to expand our mental health services. Our partnership with Mindpeace (a non-profit advocate for access to high quality mental healthcare) is in place at both of our high schools, and will be in all of our junior schools by next year. We have also partnered with “Grant Us Hope,” which includes bringing Hope Squads to our high schools. These peer-to-peer suicide prevention groups encourage our students to “see something, say something” when they are concerned about one of their fellow students.

The “see something, say something” message is one that we strongly encourage at all of our schools. This concept is put to the test regularly when there are concerns about questionable social media posts, for example. The students who had the courage to show the posts to their parents, teachers or school administrators are to be commended. It’s a practice that is encouraged through our “Text-A-Tip” program in partnership with local law enforcement, too.

While we work to keep our schools safe, we also need support from home. I encourage you to stay engaged in your child’s life. Be intentional about your presence. Have conversations with them, including the hard ones. Know who their friends are. Check their social media accounts. Follow their friends’ accounts. In most of these horrific events, there have been warning signs. If you see something that bothers you, say something and encourage your child to do the same.

In the aftermath of last week’s tragedy, our students are speaking up and asking to be heard, asking to be able to do something to show their support of the Stoneman Douglas community. I find this admirable and our administrators are working with student leaders to find a way to support the expression of student voice in a safe and effective way. Likewise, I encourage you to support your children by listening to them as they cope during these difficult times and encourage them to work with their school principal to share their voice and honor the students of Stoneman Douglas.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.


Matthew J. Miller