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Improving safety at our schools
In my mind the worst of the human predators are the ones who go after our children.
In 2006, my child started kindergarten here in Bremerton. Because I was working part time, I was able to adjust my schedule so that I could volunteer one full day a week in his classroom.
It was a rewarding experience on many levels. I learned a lot about the school and the people who work there as well as how the overall public education system works.
Not once during that period of time was I ever asked to check in with the office, sign in on a log sheet or submit an application for a background check.
I had no restrictions placed upon me as to where I was allowed to go in the school during my hours of volunteering and there were times that I was alone with children other than my own.
This wide open access did not sit well with me and around the same time I began to ask questions about this situation. A sitting school board member was also asking many of the same questions.
This particular director had just begun to work on the idea of implementing background checks for all school volunteers.
Over the course of the next couple of years, a formal program of volunteer coordination along with a requirement that all school volunteers pass a Washington State Patrol background check was implemented as part of the district policy.
Events that occurred this past month in the North Mason School District revealed to everyone that no one system is ever completely secure.
The background checks submitted through the current Washington State Patrol system only review the records from Washington State.
They do not reveal any criminal activity that has occurred in other states.
Background checks are only a small part of an overall system of school security, in building tracking, personal staff observations and accountability.
No system is going to be full-proof and our schools should not be turned into locked down prisons as any sort of an answer.
As parents the opportunity to take the situations that occur in the news regarding student safety and turn them into important conversations exist.
Have those conversations with your kids. Listen to what they have to say.
If you have concerns about anything your kids are telling you about what goes on at school, take those concerns directly to the appropriate individuals at the district level.
It takes a critical amount of diligence on all of our parts, at every level to protect the children of our community.
It takes solid district policy, the correct training for staff on what to do and what to look for and most importantly those conversations between parents and children.
Do your part as a parent and insist that others are continuing to do their parts as well.
Colleeen Smidt is a longtime Bremerton resident who writes weekly on community matters in Bremerton.