Almost two decades ago, the tragic events at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, changed both the perception and operation of our public schools.
Since that April day in 1999, we have witnessed other violations of a sacred trust at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Parkland; no type of school is immune and there is no age limit to the threat.
From houses of worship to centers of commerce, from public streets to ticketed music venues, we live in a time of uncertainly and accessibility.
With the very liberties we celebrate in our classrooms comes the responsibility and sobering realization that with individual freedom comes openness to risks.
The Hilliard City Schools and its essential partners at the Hilliard Division of Police and Norwich Township Fire Department have committed to providing the safest possible schools while understanding the importance of a welcoming learning environment.
Our goal is not to construct "reverse prisons" or impenetrable fortresses; our goal is to institute reasonable safety and security measurers while training our staff members and students actively to own our collective safety.
Working together, practicing "See Something, Say Something," and training for the unimaginable is how we are active in preventing violence and prepared to respond when necessary.
"See Something, Say Something" has thwarted potential deadly threats in our district.
Our students and our school resource officers from the Hilliard police have reported dozens of circumstances that could have ended in harm to self or harm to others.
Our parents, with their trust in school officials and law enforcement, are conduits of information. It takes a village to keep our community safe; we all monitor social media, listen to cries for help and step up when action is required of us.
The district also has hired a director of student well-being, Michael Abraham, to support our mental-health programs. We have students who are hurting and young people who are suffering from trauma, and we must intervene to create safe, healthy pathways to strength.
On Monday, Aug. 20, in partnership with our first responders, we also are holding a full-scale Safety Training Day for the district.
Our staff – our entire staff – will participate in multiple scenario events at Hilliard Darby High School.
These will be live training drills for our teachers, our police officers and our fire and rescue teams.
The drills are unknown to all but a handful of people. The sights, sounds and smells will be real.
It is going to be a difficult, emotional day for all of these dedicated professionals, but it is required.
We want our teams to drill their responses, to rehearse how they would feel and react. We want each teacher, secretary, custodian and principal to return to their space and reflect on what would be required of them.
Our response to any threat event will, in part, influence the outcome.
We have rehearsed fire drills in public schools for decades, and it has been decades since we've lost a student in a school-building fire. It has become part of our culture, an expectation in schools, that we have fire drills.
We practice where to go in the unlikely event of a tornado. We have designated places to provide maximum shelter.
Now, in times of uncertainly and the potential for different threats to student safety, we practice safety drills.
The days of "hide in place" are being replaced by intentional training to flee to safety when possible. Lockdowns are being replaced with "run, hide, fight."
The research is clear: The experts are providing the skills for us to drill, practice and rehearse.
I know this is unsettling to many, and it is uncomfortable for me, as well.
My hope and prayer is we never use the training we are providing our teachers, staff members and first responders.
As school officials, we do not take these actions lightly.
It is with great pause and intentional action that we reach decisions about student safety. We balance the historic challenges of personal liberty and collective safety.
It is with great discernment that we draft policies and procedures, always knowing that reflection is required to live our "growth mindset."
Our pledge to the community is continued partnership with law-enforcement officials, reflection on each exercise with opportunities for improvement and transparent communication regarding the scope of our efforts.
Hilliard City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen writes the Hilliard Schools Connection guest column for the ThisWeek Hilliard Northwest News.