Kent City Schools superintendent George Joseph addresses parents concerns about school safety

David Williams

Parents of Kent City Schools students raised their concerns about school safety procedures to Superintendent George Joseph Wednesday evening at the Kent Free Library.

“All of us are needing to lock arms and deal with this situation so our kids can continue to be safe in our schools,” Joseph said.

Joseph began the meeting by taking a moment of silence for the students killed in recent school shootings. He went on to explain what specific measures have been put in place at Kent City Schools.

These include ensuring all exterior doors are locked, the installation of buzzer systems at doors, 24-hour motion sensor cameras installed in all school buildings and an SRO (Student Resource Officer), Matt Butcher, who was appointed after a thorough interviewing process.

The district conducts at least three lockdown exercises each year.

“A.L.I.C.E. empowers our staff and students to do more than stand in a corner and wait,” said Jim Soyers, the director of Business Services for the Kent City School District and a Kent State alumnus.

The district also maintains a regular dialogue with the Kent City Police and Fire Departments. Kent City Schools uses the A.L.I.C.E. program, a multi-tier crisis intervention and management program that is also required for freshmen at Kent State.

The schools also have radio communications with Kent Police and can go live inside dispatch to more effectively communicate to officers what’s going on in the event of an emergency.

Joseph also addressed new programs being implemented in the school district. Kent City Schools has a district initiative called the Red Flags program, which is implemented from pre-K through grade 12. The Red Flags program teaches students how to identify when something seems out of place.

This year, through the help of grants, Kent City Schools implemented into their health curriculum a new approach to intervention called SBIRT (Screening Brief Intervention Referral to Therapy), in which issues such as drug abuse, depression and mental health are referred to trained professionals outside of the district.

The program utilizes nursing professionals from both Kent State’s School of Nursing and Akron Children’s Hospital. The program is currently funded for three years, after which Joseph hopes to earn more grants to fund it further and more broadly, spanning grades five through 12.

Teachers and parents of students were quick to raise concerns for their children’s safety. One teacher proposed increasing the number of counselors in the schools to more effectively address the large student body.

Kent City Schools currently has one counselor in every building. Parents brought up questions about what happens after you see something and say something, what training is given to staff and faculty and at what point an event goes from being a school matter to a police matter.

Parents also discussed the possibility of adding Student Resource Officers to every school in the district. The current SRO is at Theodore Roosevelt High School for a majority of the day and is at Stanton Middle School for the remainder.  

“Once it’s in the school building, it’s too late,” Beth Robb, a mother of two Kent City Schools students, said about weapons being brought into schools.

Joseph took note of the parent’s responses and assured everyone present that their concerns would be heard and addressed by himself and the administration.

This meeting was the first “Coffee and Conversation” since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead. The last meeting had eight in attendance. This week’s meeting had over 50 parents and teachers.

David Williams is the safety reporter. Contact him at [email protected]