School Safety Message to Parents and Guardians from Superintendent Marcus Chambers
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Our most precious asset is our children. The Okaloosa County School District's primary focus is to provide our students with the safest learning environment possible that promotes the highest levels of academic and personal achievement. In order to be prepared in the event of any crisis, Okaloosa County schools plan and execute active assailant, fire, and other emergency and severe weather drills and have protocols and employee training for many other crises. The OCSD Crisis Management Team, in partnership with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies, conducts ongoing reviews of procedures and protocols, and all employees receive annual training and/or retraining based on these recommendations.
As a District, our goal is to effectively communicate with parents, guardians, and the community if a concerning situation arises at any Okaloosa County public school. If this occurs, parents and guardians of the impacted school or area will receive notifications from the District. Be assured we will be coordinating with law enforcement and school officials to ensure everyone receives the appropriate information regarding our efforts to keep students and staff safe. Parents should expect to receive a call or text through our District’s communication tool whenever something occurs that significantly upsets the school environment. These callouts could relate to weather events, power outages, or safety concerns. In today’s technology-driven world, students are often the first to contact their parents when an unannounced safety drill is occurring, and that is understandable. If that happens, I urge you to remain calm and give school officials time to communicate with you to provide accurate information regarding the situation at hand. Parents and guardians are asked to not come to the school campus during a “Lockdown,” as these situations are best resolved when first responders and school officials can address the situation appropriately and effectively. The District has a very strong safety record and has layers of resources in place to keep students and staff safe.
Unfortunately, like school districts across the state and nation, the Okaloosa County School District is not immune to receiving potential threats. The posting of inappropriate statements and/or videos by students on social media that are threatening in nature can spread rapidly through a school community. As a District, we always partner with law enforcement to determine whether a threat is credible and what action(s) to take to keep our students safe. We encourage each and every member of our school community to notify school officials or law enforcement if they see or hear anything they perceive as threatening to our school community.
We know that the drills and lockdown exercises required by the Florida Department of Education can be stressful for students. Understand that emergency drills are necessary and are designed for each school’s unique circumstances, such as differences in the school’s physical design and its student population. Our commitment to safeguarding our students and staff remains the top priority in everything we do.
We have compiled various school safety resources to help parents support their children and familiarize themselves with school safety rules and laws. Families can reference OCSD's Student Services Counseling Resources to find a myriad of resources in our community to assist in accessing treatment, counseling, and support for mental illness or to improve their mental wellness. For further information, contact the Office of Safe Schools at 850.226.4815 or Student Intervention Services at 850.833.3108.
No school district is perfect, but we are proud of our safety record over the past several years. We can do even better and we will, particularly becoming more efficient in notifying parents anytime events cause or have the potential to cause disruption to our learning environment. Our commitment to our students, families, and employees is to maintain this tradition of continuous improvement in planning, preparing, and practicing the necessary crisis response protocols and procedures. Safety First!
Marcus D. Chambers