Back to school: adding funding to help rural schools with safety

Posted at 9:20 PM, Aug 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-04 07:29:44-04

It’s a simple concept.

”If we want students to learn, they have to feel safe,” said Jolene Palmer, Nebraska Department of Education.

But, for some rural schools security isn't the same as in urban areas.

“I think there is this belief and appropriately that rural areas tend to be safer and generally they are,” said Dr. Mario Scalora.

Despite statistics, University of Nebraska Public Policy Center Director Dr. Mario Scalora says all schools should be prepared for anything from a school shooting to a natural disaster.

But, sometimes rural schools face obstacles such as minimal police presence or a very limited tax base.

Hopefully a newly awarded federal research grant will change that.

“They are safe now, they are going to become safer and that's what we are excited about,” said Palmer.

Jolene Palmer with the Nebraska Department of Education says the more than $645,000 two-year grant will help her department work with the Public Policy Center to collect data, assess schools and survey law enforcement from more than 150 rural Nebraska school districts.

“It's not about pointing out what is wrong, it is about let’s look at what we need to provide you more with for more support,” said Palmer.

The goal is to come up with a model that encompasses different practices and things rural schools can do creatively and cost effectively to increase safety and emergency preparedness.

Despite things like lack of state funding or having a school resource officer, many rural schools like Mead have taken safety matters into their own hands.

“We just added this one this summer, because we noticed a spot in the building that we couldn't see,” said Mead Superintendent Dr. Dale Rawson.

Despite the small size, Mead School Superintendent Dr. Dale Rawson is big on safety.

“It doesn't happen very often, but you can never ever say it won’t happen,” said Rawson.

The district only has about 250 students, but both schools are locked during the day, have security cameras and new emergency alert systems are in place for the 2017 school year.

With the recent recommendation of local law enforcement Dawson implemented the standard response protocol, “I Love You Guys,” it uses the terms, lockout, lockdown, evacuate and shelter.

Dawson says he is going to continue to find ways to make his schools safer and increase the number of yearly drills.

“We want to protect our children, I mean that is just the normal thing we want to do and I’m glad the department is working to help us make safe schools,” said Dawson.