In the wake of the Dec. 6 morning incident that resulted in a student being taken into custody, the Fredonia Central School district has spent the last week taking a closer look at their safety plan.
“This is one of the reasons we have a number of emergency drills we do in any school year,” said Dr. Bradley Zilliox, superintendent. “And we practice and get better at them. But even with that practice, there are areas still to improve upon.”
Zilliox said it is commonplace following a lockdown to debrief the situation and evaluate what went well and what could be improved on. While they are in the process of fully reviewing the situation, there are a handful of areas they are evaluating closely. But at this week’s board meeting, Zilliox discussed the school’s communication during the incident and in general.
“It comes to me as my responsibility as superintendent,” he said. “And although we communicated in this scenario, we recognize that we could have done better and I could have done better.”
Because of this, Zilliox said the school is already making adjustments in this area. He said they are trying not to overextend themselves and make false promises, but moving forward, when there are lockdown drills — whether expected or unexpected — there will be more communication to families and the community.
“We will communicate to the school and family that it was a drill and there was no reason for alarm or concern,” Zilliox said, “just to make sure that it’s clear to everybody. We also recognize that when we have an actual lockdown, one of the things we want to do is communicate quicker, even if we can’t fully explain the situation.”
Zilliox said they are committing to giving a less detailed summary of the event immediately following the lockdown, while sending out additional communication later giving the location of the event, what was involved, and why they felt like they needed to enter the lockdown, and any other details.
Also discussed was the school’s real-time communication during an incident. Zilliox said they are considering whether that is possible with the tools at their disposal.
“It would be brief and not very detailed, but at least it would provide an awareness of what’s happening on campus,” Zilliox said.
Zilliox said the process of learning from this experience is ongoing, and they are reaching out to local law enforcement such as the Fredonia Police Department to get their feedback on these topics. And the main message shared for further school safety is the old popular saying.
“We are re-engaging with the ‘if you see something, say something’ concept here around the district,” Zilliox said. “We’re asking everyone to join in and share that message. In moments, it’s possible that any of us might see something that looks suspicious or concerning, and we are asking anybody that if they have any feelings similar to that, to tell an adult in the building, and often students are most comfortable sharing things with their parents, so we extend it to them as well.”
Though Zilliox talked about what the district could do better, he also gave credit to the staff, students, Fredonia Police, and School Safety Officer Tim Kachelmeyer for resolving the issue how they did.
“I am very proud of how our students and staff reacted during this scenario,” Dr. Zilliox said. “The Fredonia PD and other law enforcement were fantastic and Mr. Kachelmeyer did an outstanding job.”