SPASH works to address school safety concerns

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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) – The Stevens Point Area Public School District is working to address school safety concerns following several threats to the district in the weeks leading up to this school year’s Winter Break.

SPASH held a meeting to address school safety, Feb. 12, 2020 (WSAW Photo)

Part of that effort included a panel discussion titled School Safety: A Community Conversation, held Wednesday night at the SPASH auditorium.

“I think this is a fantastic opportunity for us to be together to show the unity, that we are working together,” said Dan Ault, police chief for the village of Plover. “More importantly, to hear the concerns our community has and to answer them together.”

Community members in attendance as well as those watching at home via live stream provided by the district were able to ask questions of the panel, which featured members of law enforcement, school and community leaders and mental health professionals.

Questions ranged from what was being done to prepare students and law enforcement for possible disaster situations, to mental health issues and how they’re being addressed in the district.

Superintendent Craig Gerlach addressed the crowd before offering a presentation and explanation of current SPAPSD school safety procedures, thanking the crowd for being there to discuss “Something that’s neat and dear to all of us,” said Gerlach. “Quite frankly it’s the one thing that keeps me up at night.”

Gerlach expresses how not only do threats like the ones in December disrupt a school day, they disrupt the entire school experience for some, making them feel unsafe in their classrooms.

“We’re doing everything we absolutely can, doing our very best to make sure the schools are safe,” added Ault. “We’re competent and capable and ready to respond to a problem in the schools, but more importantly, prevent the problems from occurring.”

Ault says communication is a huge factor in making that prevention possible.

“Don’t be afraid to communicate something. Don’t be afraid to report when you have concerns of troubling behavior before I reaches a point that turns into violence,” said Ault. “That’s what we really want to do. We want to prevent things from occurring.”

According to district officials, over 40 questions were submitted online, with more being submitted by people in the audience. The district plans to provide a document with each question answered specifically on their website later this week.