Back when the Beacon City School District was going through a leadership crisis, with a high rate of superintendent turnover, the Board of Education encouraged the community to participate in surveys so the board could hear what the community wanted in a superintendent. One of the strongest desires that became clear from that process was the need for Communication. Thus, Dr. Matt Landahl was found and hired, and he moved his family to Beacon. Right out of the gate, he has been a robust letter writer, an avid tweeter, and a super blogger for the school. To be real, this is his first year on the job in Beacon, so it is still a trial period. But since Week 1 of the school year, he has been in parents' ears and inboxes, testing the school district's upgraded robo-call system to make sure it works.
This Just In Via Robo-Call - 19 K-9 Teams Sweep All Beacon Schools
Over the past week, parents in the Beacon City School District have received several robo-calls: Someone from the school records a message that gets sent to phones, turned into emails, and is miniaturized into texts. Parents and other caregivers can get informed about something in at least three different ways. And yes, this is a different system from robo-call systems of years past; robo-call systems don't all work this way.
On Thursday, February 22, 2018, the Beacon School District Community was informed - via robo-call - of a threat made to Rombout Middle School.
Partial Message from February 22, 2018 Alert from Dr. Landahl:
We want to make you aware of a situation reported to us that involves Rombout Middle School. The Beacon City Police Department received a report yesterday evening of a concern about a potential school violence threat for Rombout Middle School. The School District and the Police Department investigated the matter yesterday evening and concluded that there was no credible threat made against the school.
We will continue to work closely with the Beacon City Police Department in all matters of threats of violence and potential harm reported to either the school district or the police department to ensure that we are working together to safeguard our students, staff, and community.
On Wednesday, February 28, another alert was issued, this time for the Beacon High School. This was also the same day that students in Parkland, Florida, returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. According to Time.com, 95 percent of students returned to school that day. Closer to home, around the Hudson Valley, school closures and arrests were happening after threats were made to schools, and weapons caches were found (see our article about that here).
Message from February 28, 2018 Alert from Dr. Landahl:
I recently received information that there was writing found at Beacon High School that can be perceived as a threat, with the wording March 1st. Our High School administration has been investigating the incident and we are also working closely with the Beacon Police Department.
This evening, the Beacon Police Department will be doing a sweep of all our buildings and there will be a police officer in our high school all day on March 1st.
Please be advised that all after-school activities will be canceled this evening at Beacon High School. All other buildings in the district will close at 6:00 pm. I will send out a follow-up robo-call once we have an all-clear confirmation from the police department.
We take the safety of our students and staff very seriously and I [will] be in touch soon with an update.
That night, parents had to pick up their children early from after-school activities because something was going to happen in the buildings conducted by the District at 6 pm. We didn't know what specifically was going on, so parents and program leaders just smiled and nodded calmly to each other at Kid Pickup.
The next robo-call came that evening at about 9 pm, informing us that all of the Beacon City Schools had been searched by police officers and 19 K-9 dog units.
Message from February 28, 2018 Alert from Dr. Landahl:
This is Matt Landahl with an update regarding school safety. This evening, the Beacon City Police Department, coordinating with our staff, deployed 19 K-9 teams to do an intensive sweep of all six of our school buildings. After each school was swept this evening, the building was secured. After this review, the Beacon Police Department has given us an all clear for the schools. We will be open tomorrow.
We will have one police officer stationed at the high school for the entire school day tomorrow and another police officer stationed between the high school and middle school for additional security.
We take the safety of our students, staff, and school buildings very seriously. We do not find this threat to be credible but we wanted to be extremely cautious in our approach this evening and tomorrow. The Beacon Police Department has done a tremendous job working with us.
I got the robo-call with my elementary-age kids around me, as we were in bedtime mode. They heard my involuntary reaction, and asked what happened. My husband and I have been discussing how we want to tell the kids about what is happening. (And by "discussing," I mean in basically three-minute spurts between news broadcasts or moments tucked into other conversations.)
I told the kids that a threat had been made, and that police dogs searched for bad things and found everything to be safe. The kids asked what a "threat" was, and we had a conversation defining that, with examples, until they understood.
I could see dots getting connected in their minds as to what has been going on around them. "Oh, that's why there was a police officer at my school yesterday!" Ok... didn't know there was a police officer at your school yesterday, but good to know.
How Are The Kids?
Conversations are starting to percolate now among parents. Word on the street (real and virtual) is that kids are handling the increased tensions well, as different stressors pop up all the time in school, and uncomfortable incidents - whether we like it or not - have become par for the course. And it's true. Programs get initiated that we don't always know about (or we missed the memo teachers sent home in kids' folders), so the kids come home telling us about a puppet show that taught them how to tell an adult about sexual abuse. Or how they learned about fire safety from the Fire Chief who came to visit. Or that they ate cabbage for the first time from their school garden. Or that they talked about bullying and what that means or what is or isn't the best way to say something to another person. Or that they had a lock-down drill. Usually parents are informed about lock-down drills (aka active-shooter training) in advance. Recently, parents received a robo-call from the school principal with a report on how the kids did in a lock-down drill.
In my sphere, mentions of homeschooling are coming up, as parents instinctively want to keep their kids home in an environment we all perceive as safe and controlled. But tragic events seem random - remember the sniper in DC all of those years ago, who had the teenager with him? Despite tragic events, we are all going to have to leave our houses. Being part of a community makes us stronger. Locally, there is talk at the school district level of including the homeschooling community in district sports, at the homeschooling community's request.
In Parkland, the high school students are being led in part by their principal, who is sending encouraging messages, some of which come via Twitter. One of the more surprising ways he's cheerleading for his students: He is bringing furry friends onboard, even increasing the number of therapy dogs on campus.