By Sydney Yalshevec

Kimball Public Schools set plan to protect students against violence


Since January 1, 2014, there have been seven reported school shootings in the United States. Some fear that school shootings are becoming the norm. With students under stress to perform academically, as well as socially, it’s not a surprise that some have difficulties handling the stress of their adolescence. The key to working with this type of situation is to be prepared and spread awareness, but not to cause alarm. Local law enforcement and school officials are not going to let themselves be put in a situation where they are not prepared for an unfortunate situation.

Although the hope among the school staff and police is that a violent situation like a school shooting won’t occur, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to be ready for if it does. Marshall Lewis, Kimball Jr./Sr. High School Superintendent, shared the current ways the school has been trying to stay ready.

“Our first line is the local police department. Having a lot of conversations with them is important. We’ve got our school resource officer now in place, so that kind of bridges that as well. In addition, Officer Smith has already provided us with some good training about a variety of things. A lot of it is that he’s law enforcement, and he thinks about things a little differently than we do as educators. He has some insight that we can tap into,” Lewis said.

The police have been working with the schools in order to have a plan in place if the unthinkable should ever happen. Kimball Police Chief Darren Huff has been an active force in coordinating training sessions with the schools and their staff as well as suggesting an emergency program to use so that the schools and police department may be a united front.

“What we tried to do was to get the schools to be a part of a preparedness program called ‘I Love You Guys’. It was started by a family whose daughter was a victim of school violence. We proposed that to the schools. That was what we would like them to use since we were going to be the responding law enforcement if they had an incident. This year we found out that the schools were going to go with that program,” Huff said.

When a violent threat such as an active shooter presents itself the situation is always different. There is no way to have a plan that is fool proof.

“I guess the one thing that I would very clearly say is that our school is not going to be impenetrable, or that type of thing. We don’t want to say that we’re perfect, because we’re not going to be but at the same time we want to do our best and use a lot of common sense as we do things,” Lewis said.

Active shooter drills have been organized with the school staff during in service days in order to answer questions the staff might have. These drills have also been paramount in assisting the police in evaluating their own tactics.

“We set up an exercise where there actually was a threat that was armed with a training rifle. It gave the police department a little more reality to the situation where they would have to act differently, use cover, use concealment in different ways than they would if there wasn’t a threat,” Huff said.

The teachers hid in the classrooms and acted in the way they would if an actual active shooter was present in the school. Although no students were present at the time of the drill, it opened up a forum afterwards for the teachers to express concerns and comments about the drill.

“It was good because it really put into perspective what their kind of ideas were and if they had questions about things or if there was something we were doing that they weren’t exactly comfortable with or familiar with. It was a listening period for answering questions and putting out there what our focus was going to be when we got there in the event of a threat,” Huff said.

It was important to get the questions the staff had out in the open. If there was an actual active shooter present, the police might have to take some action that some might question if they weren’t prepared ahead of time.

“There could be a situation where there are injured people and people down that might need help, but our primary concern is going to be getting to that threat because the longer we wait the more innocent lives are going to be lost. We’re going off the statistics of what an active shooter is. That’s somebody that wants to take as many lives as possible in the fastest amount of time,” Huff said.

Even though having a plan in the event of a violent act is an important thing, it’s also good to try and raise awareness, and hopefully, through that awareness, prevention is born. However, in the case that awareness doesn’t breed prevention, there is still a plan in place.

After these school shootings take place there tends to be evidence brought to the table that make it seem as though the situation was highly preventable. Counselors and behavioral analysts have released statements laying out a list of signs that should have tipped everyone off to the fact that the child was going to act violently. However, it isn’t that easy, according to Lewis.

“It’s very common after an incident to say oh these were the tell tale signs. Now the caution of that is that those tell tale signs might be exhibited in a large amount of people that don’t ever act on anything. The thing that we don’t want to do is jump to conclusions. We don’t want to think that every time someone does this they are going to act out violently. ‘A’ does not always equal ‘B’ in these kind of situations. At the same time, if someone is having stressful times or difficult times it’s good to be aware of that and work for the solution instead of waiting for something to happen,” Lewis said.

Students don’t always want to share how they’re feeling with adults or authority figures. Even if it’s something as simple as talking about stress. A lot of times students will talk to each other and that can be of benefit to the prevention of school violence.

“The best thing we have as a school to prevent any sort of violence is the student body themselves. Kids talk about things they are going to do and when students have concerns and they bring those concerns to the school, those are the things that we can keep an eye on and do something about ahead of time,” Lewis said.

More often than not, after a violent incident occurs, it has come to light that someone knew something and just didn’t speak up. Sometimes they did speak up, but it was too late to act on the information.

Another dilemma faced by the school is trying to figure out how much of the feeling of safety to sacrifice in order to protect the students. The school tries to strike a balance to raise awareness but not alarm.

“We feel like we’re a safe community and school and you don’t want to make the kids have to pass through metal detectors and have random searches, that would take away from that ‘Hey we live in Western Nebraska’ type of wide open spaces feeling of safety,” Lewis said.

Raising awareness doesn’t have to result in the students feeling unsafe or as though there is danger lurking around every corner.

“Awareness is our key and not alarm. Trying to keep normalcy I think is important. It’s like maybe putting an emergency kit in your car, you don’t put it in there and think to yourself, ‘I’m going to get into an accident today,’ you put it in there in case something happens and you need to use it. You want to be prepared, but not to the point where the preparedness causes more stress or panic,” Lewis said.

The school officials and police department have worked hard to ensure a safe environment for the students. They have realized they are not immune to incidents but have taken precaution and made themselves prepared. All the time the students safety has been kept at the forefront.


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