Dear Niskayuna families,
The school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee last week was a devastating reminder of the senseless gun violence impacting every corner of our country. In recent weeks, hoax threats targeting school districts in the Capital Region and across the state have left many in our community feeling vulnerable. I’m writing to reassure the Niskayuna community that our entire district leadership team and I are deeply committed to the safety of our students, staff and visitors on our eight campuses and to share with you some of the measures we have in place to ensure student safety and well-being.
Firstly, our security protocols and emergency response plans are outlined in detailed safety plans that are thoroughly reviewed and updated each school year. This review and the resulting plans are informed by best practices outlined by the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, and the New York State Police. Our District-wide Safety Plan is available on our website, while building-level emergency response plans are kept confidential. Here are some of the preventative safety measures we’ve implemented:
- We utilize locked, staff-monitored points of entry at each of our schools during the school day.
- We utilize a visitor registration process at the entryways to properly identify school visitors and grant access to our campuses.
- We utilize video surveillance (interior and exterior) on our school campuses.
- Each of our buildings holds regular drills to familiarize students, faculty and staff with emergency protocols.
- We partner closely with local law enforcement and first responders in formulating our plans and when holding emergency drills.
- The Niskayuna Police Department conducts regular walk-throughs of our school buildings and coordinates with school building principals and district leadership on safety and security issues.
The District-wide Safety Committee serves as an additional, ongoing layer of emergency response preparedness. The committee includes Niskayuna fire and police chiefs, the NYS Police, the Saratoga County Sheriff’s office, district and school building leadership and faculty representatives. The committee meets regularly during the school year to review safety protocols, recommend security enhancements and improve our readiness to respond to emergencies.
Our efforts to ensure the well-being of our students extend to supporting students’ mental health and wellness. A priority focus area for our district is social-emotional learning, which teaches students core skills like self-regulation, conflict resolution and empathy. Research shows that social-emotional learning can help create healthier, more welcoming and safer school environments.
Hearing about violence occurring in schools can be alarming for students and may make them feel less safe at school. The National Association of School Psychologists has created a guide on how to talk to children about their fears. The guide provides a framework for having this difficult but important conversation in an age-appropriate way:
I thank our entire school community for your continued support in making our schools safe, secure and welcoming spaces for all of our students. I particularly want to extend my gratitude to our local and state law enforcement agencies and first responders for their dedication and commitment to student safety.
Carl J. Mummenthey
Superintendent of Schools