The Belle Plaine School District is taking a major step in mitigating threats against its students. By forming what are known as threat assessment teams - groups of teachers, administrators and mental health professionals trained to recognize warning signs for potentially problematic behaviors - district leaders hope to be on the forefront of addressing potential safety concerns, both to individual students and to the student body and staff as a whole.
The teams, which are in the early phases of formation and implementation, will likely operate at a building level, not the district level, because teachers and staff in each building are more likely to be familiar with students in their building rather than in the whole district, according to Belle Plaine Schools Superintendent Ryan Laager.
School social worker Jamie Olson, who has and will continue to receive outside training to facilitate the district’s threat assessment program, delivered a presentation to the Belle Plaine School Board at their work session on Monday night, Feb. 10, outlining several facets of what she and other professionals would consider a successful program.
Olson outlined various factors, including anonymous student reporting, monitoring students’ social media and search histories on school devices for troubling subject matter, and understanding historically troubled students’ repeated behaviors as some of the many key areas the threat assessment teams could hone in on.
Olson noted that the teams would be used to address issues such as suicidal tendencies and the potential for student-on-student violence, adding that in 75% of school shooting cases at least one other person, typically a fellow student, knew about the students’ plans to initiate attacks.
At the school board work session, board members embraced the plan for integrating threat assessment teams into the district, and they are likely to start after team members in each building are finalized and their training completed.
Possible Improvements for High School Gymnasiums
Belle Plaine High School may soon get newly refinished gym floors complete with new graphics and lines, according to Laager, who noted that the price for doing so in both the north and south gymnasiums would hover around $30,000, depending on the sophistication of the floor designs.
Stylized boundary lines and updated logos are among the items targeted for the new floors. Laager stated that the project could begin as early as the first week of May. He added that he would like to see a contingency plan made with the contractor if the project is not completed by graduation this spring. Such a plan would include a plan for covering the floor so the event could still be held in the south gym and a credit to the school paid by the contractor for the theoretical delay.
In addition to the refinished floors in the south gym, work on the ceiling, bleachers and repainting the gym’s walls will also likely be in order given that the district has a healthy long-term facility maintenance budget, which was levied from the district tax base.