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Local officials answer the question: What can we do starting next week?

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Wellsville and Whitesville Central School Superintendents answer the question

Wellsville Chief of Police reaction

Allegany County Legislator, Chairman of the Public Safety Committee responds

By Andrew Harris

An email has been sent to local leaders in government, law enforcement, and education after the latest school massacre. The email is below, which was promptly replied to by Wellsville’s David Foster, Whitesville’s Tammy Emery, and Chief Tim O’Grady.

Is Allegany County next ?

Death by firearms, primarily homicide, is the leading cause of death for American children.

I’d love to hear some ideas about how to change this statistic. At this rate, Allegany County is doomed to the same fate of Uvlade, most likely in Wellsville. I don’t want my kids or your kids to be killed, or to survive a school shooting. What can be done, in Allegany County, starting next week, in hopes of preventing this from happening in one of our schools?

We can’t control the national dialogue on the subject. But we can do something in Allegany County, we have the funding and very likely NYS will be increasing funding in response to Uvlade.

What can we do, starting Monday ?

PS. Someone already mentioned “thoughts and prayers.”

Tammy Emery, Superintendent of Whitesville Central Schools, responded with news that the school just installed a new “hardened main entrance:”

The tragic events of the last few weeks have saddened us deeply at Whitesville Central School.  They serve as reminders that our first commitment is to the safety of our school community and the importance of many layers of support for our children and staff.

Our District continues to address emergency planning, by regularly reviewing our school safety plan and procedures with input and assistance from law enforcement.   As part of our emergency planning, we recently created a hardened main entrance with added security features and are instituting an alert system along with other safety measures.  We will continue to review and update those plans and measures as we are consistently learning.

In addition to adding physical security features and implementing safety plans, our teachers and staff continue to work closely with parents and the community to support our children.  Our learning environment is strong, and we enjoy close relationships in our school community.  We are proud of our students and have emphasized to them, the importance of “say something if they see or hear something,” and we will continue with that message.”

David Foster, Superintendent in Wellsville, also offered details on recent school security work. Foster explains that the district as already meet with local law enforcement officials since the school shooting in Uvalde, TX:

While our community shares emotions of anger, frustration, and sadness with recent events in Buffalo and Texas, these events also remind us of the importance of our collective work to support our children and to continually review our safety procedures. 

At Wellsville Central School, we continue to revisit our safety procedures and plans as we work with our school resource officer, local law enforcement, and other state and local agencies.   We have the benefit of a very supportive and close community, and we are aware of the trust placed in us.  With the community’s support, the District has taken prior steps that include having a full-time police officer on site, having hardened entrances that remain locked until visitors are screened, holding drills for staff and students that include law enforcement, and more.  Most recently, following the tragedy in Texas, we met with law enforcement to again review our procedures.

While physical security measures focus on an event in motion, we know that providing social and emotional support to young people is also important.  Our staff and family resource office remain available to students and families who may need additional support.  And, we will continue to offer opportunities for students to participate in clubs, extracurricular activities, and social events.  These experiences are essential in helping young people form positive relationships, learn to deal with conflict, and build resilience.   Wellsville has expanded its extracurricular clubs with a deliberate emphasis on activities that attract a wider variety of interests such as robotics, eSports, Winter track, and swimming.  We will continue to offer opportunities like these to support the social and emotional development of our students.

Importantly, we will continue to remind students to reach out if they need help and support, as well as to say something if they are concerned about a friend or classmate.  And, we will continue to acknowledge the many acts of goodness and kindness we see daily at school. 

Tim O’Grady, Chief of the Wellsville Police Department, also offered a reaction and acknowledged that his department has been providing security assistance to Wellsville Central Schools since the recent school shooting:

“I read the CDC release that indicated homicide is the leading cause of death for American children nationwide.  While we are sheltered from a lot of the national issues that arise week to week, no one is naïve enough to think that something like this couldn’t happen in Allegany County.  In 2018, the Wellsville School District and the Village of Wellsville entered into an agreement to provide a school resource officer to the school district.  I feel this has been a valuable partnership where various behavioral issues have been identified and addressed in an effort to prevent worsening conduct. In addition, the district has a safety plan which the police department is involved with reviewing regularly. The district hosts lockdown drills annually and invites the police department in to observe.   Additionally, the police department routinely trains in active shooter response at both of the Wellsville campuses.          

We’ve witnessed attacks with firearms, edged weapons, and even explosives in schools.  It would be difficult to defend from all of the “what if” scenarios that could be imagined. “

The county legislator who is currently charged with running the Public Safety Committee clearly feels the subject needs to be talked about on a county level:

“For myself, I am shocked and horrified at the mass shootings that have taken place, most recently here in New York and at a school in Texas.  As the Allegany County Public Safety Chair, I intend to enter into discussions with our leadership and Public Safety personnel to explore extra prevention measures for our children’s safety.”

Other local leaders have been asked this same basic question: What can we do, in Allegany County, to protect our children from being killed in school ? As they reply we will report their statements, ideas, or lack of a response.

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