This year, Oct. 18-24 will be recognized as Kentucky Safe Schools Week. This annual event – which has recognized issues such as preventing cyberbullying, hatred and violence – has taken on a bit of a different perspective due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kentucky Center for School Safety is asking students to sign the Healthy Habits Safety Pledge, in which they pledge to wear a face mask in public, wash their hands frequently, practice social distancing, be kind to everyone at school, regardless of whether it’s virtual or face to face, and be considerate to others. I think this pledge is particularly significant this year because it focuses on the things that stand the best chance of allowing our students to attend in-person classes this school year.
Wearing a face mask is one of the most important things all Kentuckians can do to protect their community, their family and their children from COVID-19. I ask you all to be good role models and wear your masks in public, because keeping the number of new infections down in your community will help keep your child’s school open this year. And please, work with your children to help them learn and consistently practice the habits included in this year’s Safe Schools pledge.
School safety is a particular interest of mine and a mission to which I am dedicated. I am a Kentucky native, but I most recently served as superintendent of the Jeffco Public Schools in Colorado. While you might have heard that it was one of the state’s largest school districts, what you might not know is that it includes Columbine High School. That name rings a bell with people because in 1999, it became the site of one of the first – and tragically not the last – mass school shootings in American history. In total, that one district has had to come to grips with three school shootings. That is something with which no school, no community, should ever have to deal.
I think as educators and parents, we all want to make our schools a safe place for our state’s children. I want you to know that I am dedicated to school safety. I have two young children myself who are attending public school in Fayette County. I care about their safety and the safety of every child attending a public school in Kentucky.
There is little doubt that this school year will be unlike any other. But together, we can make it a positive learning experience for all of our students.