WE NEVER STOP THINKING ABOUT SAFETY
Safe and Welcoming Schools is a key focus in our Strategic Plan and as a dedicated member of this community, you should know exactly what that means to us. We understand that the thought of a school crisis is scary, but we want to give you peace of mind should the unthinkable happen.
During a crisis, Peoria Unified may activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Once activated, staff who are all trained in Federal Emergency Management Agency Emergency Response procedures, mobilize resources on behalf of the school or district site and coordinate with local law enforcement on the appropriate response. Staff in the EOC are assigned to different support roles, such as verifying facts and communicating with employees and parents, monitoring the changing needs of the site, reaching out to transportation, food services and monitoring and responding to social and news media. There is also someone who posts timely updates on the district website for parents and community members.
HERE IS WHAT PARENTS CAN DO WHEN THERE IS A CRISIS
- Download the ParentSquare app so you receive updates. ParentSquare will always be your first and best source for information in a crisis, rather than school’s front office staff. In fact, staff are instructed not to answer the phones during a crisis so that they can focus on the safety of those around them. When parents and community members call, it clogs the phone lines that may be needed during an emergency to speak to police, fire, or other school and district administration.
- Help keep roadways near the school clear from traffic. Keeping the roadways clear will help ensure that all emergency responders and district staff have quick access to the site. The campus will be locked, unless evacuating, and staff are tasked with verifying the whereabouts of every individual on campus. Please do not come to the school unless instructed. Employees cannot safely check out individual students while assisting with managing the crisis, so do not expect your child to be quickly released until we can contain the situation and activate our release or reunification plans.
- Learn more about the process. Communication is extremely important in the event of a crisis and the district will work to ensure accuracy. As soon as information becomes available to us and we can verify its accuracy, we will communicate with you. Please be patient with us. The safety of your child is our number one priority, communication is our second. You can help us prevent rumors from spreading by waiting to receive reports from us.
- Look for facts from official sources. Understand that information shared from students may not be accurate. We always encourage students with cell phones to reach out to their parents or guardians to verify their safety. We know that they can always get to you faster than we can, even with our mass communication system. Students may only have access to partial information. We are working to keep them calm and safe, which may cause a delay in our outreach to you. Again, ParentSquare will always be the official source for crisis response information.
To prioritize safety, we drill, train, and prepare for a crisis throughout the school year. We update our Emergency Operations Plan annually. We conduct table-top exercises with multiple agencies to get feedback on our drills and improve our processes.
Last year, Peoria Unified attended the School Safety and Security Summit in Glendale, Ariz. and networked with law enforcement, school districts, and other agencies who provide ancillary services nationwide. The district’s safety and security coordinator and law enforcement conducted site evaluations of all school campuses and made recommendations for improvement. Updates have been made at each school, requiring all guests to check in at a school’s front office when they enter a campus. Procedures have been put in place, such as locking doors throughout the day. We have added cameras to the exterior of all high school campuses and are working on installation across the rest of the district.
HERE IS HOW WE WILL CONTINUE TO FOCUS ON SAFETY IN THE 2023-24 SCHOOL YEAR
- Each high school has a dedicated school resource officer that is funded partially from our budget and partially funded through the generosity of the Glendale and Peoria police departments. Glendale has a school liaison officer to support our 13 Glendale elementary schools and beginning in 2023-24, there will be a shared cost between the city of Peoria and the district to add four new school liaison officers who will support the district’s other 23 elementary schools.
- Pending Governing Board approval, we are planning to include $5.3 million in district additional assistance/capital items for safety, such as door hardware, intercom systems, cameras/vape sensors, and additional front office remodels for security.
- Peoria Unified is re-forming a safety and security task force made up of district administrators, principals and parents to drive our work.
- The district will continue to communicate how students can See Something, Hear Something, Say Something, Do Something in the upcoming school year by prioritizing their physical, electronic and digital safety both inside and outside the classroom.
- Peoria Unified is implementing a confidential reporting link for students to submit a safety concern to our staff. QR codes for the anonymous reporting link will be placed throughout campuses, and in the junior high and high school restrooms at all schools so that students have a private place to submit safety concerns.
- Student Services will continue to offer monthly virtual training opportunities for families on various topics such as vaping, teen suicide, bullying, conflict resolution, and more.
We hope this will help you better understand how we respond when a crisis takes place. We are never done focusing on safety.
We are asking students in the district to "Take the Pledge" to See Something, Hear Something, Say Something, Do Something. If you would like to pledge to do your part to support a safe learning environment for all students and staff at your school, click here to Take the Pledge. Families interested in seeing details for the student pledge can view it here.
If you'd like to learn more about safety in Peoria Unified, you will find additional information on this page and on the additional links. You can also download our new Safety one-pager that puts all of the vital information in one location.
SEE SOMETHING, HEAR SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING, DO SOMETHING
The Peoria Unified School District offers a Safe School Line, 623-486-6199, for students, parents and community members to anonymously report threats or suspicious activity. Any messages will be retrieved during the district's regular business hours and reported to the appropriate school principal. Peoria Unified families and students are encouraged to report anything concerning that they may see or hear to school administration so that it can be investigated.
A Message Regarding Social Media Threats
Safety has always been on the top of our minds. Now more than ever, we are seeing a rise in threats that have been made or shared on social media, or even those which have been verbally shared by students at school.
Please take a quick moment to view this video from the Peoria Police Department which addresses school threats.
Thanks to our bond dollars, Peoria Unified has made updates to our schools over the last few school years to include additional fencing at some campuses, single points-of-entry, renovations to front offices and more. A team of individuals regularly conducts safety audits of our school sites to look for any areas that may need improvement. When voters approve a bond, it provides much-needed funding to help essential improvements at school sites.
MENTAL & BEHAVORIAL HEALTH
Our goal is to provide support and resources to meet the needs of every student, every day in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in schools throughout the Peoria Unified School District.
When a student is struggling emotionally or behaviorally, the school Student Support Team (made up of administration, nursing, emotional support staff and teachers) will assess, create and implement a student-specific support intervention.
This may include referral to outside agencies for support groups, social skills groups, one-on-one behavioral support or mentor support.
PEORIA UNIFIED RESTROOM PRACTICES
Our teachers, support staff and administrators are committed to providing positive and engaging learning environments so that each child can reach their full potential. Safety and well-being are central to supporting academic achievement, which means students need to be physically safe; and more importantly, they need to feel safe. To support safe schools, Peoria Unified has policies regarding behavior expectations for all students while at school and when participating in school-sponsored activities, on or off their campus. When a student makes a poor choice, they receive the appropriate consequences to correct the behavior and maintain the safety for all.
There are many components to our safety plans to ensure the well-being of students and staff; safety continues to be our first priority. Each of our 36,000 students has unique needs and we strive to meet each one so that all students can be successful in school. If your child feels uncomfortable using one of our public restrooms for health reasons, cultural concerns, privacy issues or any other reason, please reach out to your principal to be provided with a private option. We have provided individual support to students, including transgender students, for many years. When a student has a need, we work with them and their family to accommodate that need to the best of our ability and in accordance with Title IX.
The Peoria Unified School District believes that every student has the right to be educated in a caring and respectful learning environment and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.
SHELTER IN PLACE
The shelter-in-place protocol provides safe refuge for students, staff and visitors at the school.
This might include a situation taking place in the community, near the proximity of the school or a biohazard situation. During a shelter-in-place, students and staff will remain indoors with the doors locked, as directed by either law enforcement or the school principal, although the educational learning environment may proceed as usual.
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS
All Peoria Unified high schools have a school resource officer to provide support on their campus. Their role includes security but extends well beyond that, to include teaching, increasing community engagement, serving as a mentor and role model. They also establish relationships and provide additional support to each of the elementary schools near their high school.
EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER
Members of Peoria Unified’s Emergency
Operations Team have been trained in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Incident Management System (NIMS) and routinely participate in drills to evaluate the district’s response to crisis situations. Each year, the EOC team reviews its Emergency Operations Plan and makes updates as necessary. The EOC team also provides regular updates to district administrators so that principals and other district and school leaders are trained in effectively responding to a crisis situation.
Lockdowns may be issued in situations involving dangerous intruders or other incidents that may pose a threat to a student or staff’s immediate safety. During a lockdown, all interior and exterior doors will be locked. Parents and visitors will not be allowed on campus during a lockdown.
During a lockdown, do not come to the school unless instructed to do so. We realize how difficult it will be for you to keep your distance from the school, but it will be crucial to keep the surrounding streets and parking lots clear for emergency vehicles. Additionally, school staff may not have the ability to safely check out your child from school during a lockdown.
SEX OFFENDER NOTIFICATION
(A.R.S. 13-3825) Legislation calling for community notification of sex offenders took effect June 1, 1996. The legislation requires that law enforcement agencies, not schools, be responsible for notification of the neighborhood when a known sex offender resides in the area. The guidelines provide levels of notification based on the risk a particular sex offender poses to the community.
Peoria Unified will cooperate with law enforcement agencies by ensuring that principals and school staff members are notified as necessary. Principals and school staffs have access on site to a copy of the notification and any other pertinent information. Visit the Arizona Department of Public Safety Sex Offender Search Portal as well as Peoria Unified Governing Board Policy JLIF for more information.
VISITORS & VOLUNTEERS
All visitors are required to enter and exit through the front office. Guests may be asked to present their identification and will sign in on the guest log. Visitors may also be asked to wear a visitor sticker or badge. Peoria Unified requires background checks. Visit our Volunteer website for additional information on volunteering at our schools.
Parents will be notified during a school crisis or shortly thereafter, depending on how long the event lasts. It is critically important that parents follow the district’s protocol in the event of an emergency. The school will not answer their phone during an emergency. Parents and visitors will not be allowed on campus until the campus has been deemed safe.
Detailed information regarding the emergency situation will be shared on the district’s website at www.peoriaunified.org/updates and will be updated as additional details become available.
Parents will also receive a phone, email and/or text message through ParentSquare with details about the event.
It is important to keep your contact information updated at your child’s school site. The staff’s number one priority is to ensure everyone’s safety on campus. The district’s Communications and Public Relations Department will share information with families once it has been verified, which may include discussing facts with police, fire, school administration, etc.
Depending on the type of crisis situation, students may be asked to text their parents and let them know that they are safe. In some crisis situations, students will not be allowed to use their phones.
The district’s Evacuation protocol includes everything from evacuating from a room to another room – evacuating from one building to another – evacuating from a building to the school grounds – or evacuating off-site to an alternate location.
In the event of an off-site evacuation, the district will implement its Reunification Plan and families will receive communication from the school district, advising them of the location and area in which they can pick up their child. Please note that proper identification will be required to further ensure student safety.