PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — In today’s climate, many parents are concerned about safety as they send their students off to school. Bay District leaders said they are working to inform parents without unnecessarily alarming them.
Local leaders believe they are doing everything they can to keep your kids safe.
The people in charge of school safety in Bay County stay incredibly busy, dealing with threats, medical issues, and more.
“Every day, every day we have first responders that may go to our campus whether it be a paramedic,” school safety coordinator Vernon Barth said. “Whether it may be a fire agency department or law enforcement possibly.”
Barth handles multiple problems each day, tracks them, then files a monthly report. With more than 27,000 students, administrators describe the district as a little city. Just like first responders do in their cities, teachers, administrators, and safety officers face challenges in their little cities.
“We have a lot of partners and agencies that we work with very closely and we just want to make sure that the kids are being safe and they are being protected and that you know parents can feel good about their students coming home every day,” Barth said.
According to the district, five students were committed to mental health issues during the first month of school and another 90 were referred for mental health treatment.
District leaders have stressed the need for mental health services for students still dealing with the emotional fallout from Hurricane Michael and the pandemic.
“I see a lot of students that don’t know how to handle situations,” Barth explained. “I see a lot of students that are not equipped emotionally to be able to handle trying tough situations so they lash out verbally or physically when it comes time which is therefore resulting in more threats and more school violence.”
Paramedics answered 26 school calls in the first month. District officials and law enforcement officers investigated 50 threats.
“Nobody wants to hear that call, this is an important district safety update about your child’s school today, we had a threat today or today we had a dangerous object,” Bay District Director of Communications Sharon Michalik said.
However, not every threat brings the same level of concern.
“If a student for example brought a plastic toy knife to school, we want to let parents know it was a plastic toy as opposed to a real knife because certainly there is a difference in the level of alarm,” Michalik said.
It should be noted that district officials said they’re in constant contact with other districts across the state and nation.
They said that, while we have some unique challenges, every school district is dealing with these types of problems.