20190531_new_safety

New Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Cheryl Logan, shown touring Miller Park Elementary School in February 2018, has made school safety one of her top priorities as superintendent.

One week after 17 people were shot and killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Cheryl Logan was visiting the school district she would soon lead.

She sat in on a meeting of senior Omaha Public Schools officials talking about safety.

“It was not our finest hour,” Logan said.

Seeing a need for improvement, Logan made school safety one of her top priorities as superintendent. Continuing with the safety focus, OPS employees on Thursday attended the district’s first School Safety Summit.

Hundreds of administrators, school safety staff and others practiced threat assessment procedures, Stop the Bleed training and more during the daylong training.

OPS isn’t alone in its efforts to stop school violence. Law enforcement officers, school representatives and mental health officials in Douglas County have created the Douglas County Threat Advisory Team.

Sarpy County has had its own threat assessment group since 2016.

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“No community is immune from the threat of school violence. We have experienced it right here in Omaha,” Mayor Jean Stothert told the group.

In the three weeks following the shootings in Parkland, the Omaha Police Department investigated 71 school threats, Stothert said.

OPS staff practiced going through the threat assessment process and applied it to scenarios where a student made a threat to determine if the situation presented a low, moderate, high or imminent risk.

“Staff is the key to keeping and preventing things from happening,” said Jolene Palmer, director of school safety for the Nebraska Department of Education.

Palmer told OPS employees that they should be on the lookout for unusual things, contact visitors in the building and build relationships with students so staffers know what’s happening in their lives.

“We need to know when kids are acting different than normal. And it’s the relationships and the connections with those students that will help us do that,” Palmer said.

The state has been training districts and conducting security assessments at schools as mandated by 2014 legislation.

Palmer said the state has just completed all security assessments in schools throughout the state.

She said assessors walked through doors school staff weren’t expecting. And in some instances, assessors walked in buildings for 20 minutes without anyone contacting them.

Palmer reminded staff that visitors should be contacted immediately.

“School safety is the responsibility of all staff,” she said.

Among the new safety measures implemented by OPS is standard response protocol for incidents, meaning that everyone from law enforcement to teachers and students is using common terms and practices during an incident.

The district also made all staff undergo mandatory training on reporting child abuse.