Contract with Bethalto School District introduces physical safeguards, communications systems, mental-health services
Blue Refuge, an Atlanta-based organization dedicated to reducing active-shooter threats, has partnered with a Bethalto, Ill., school district to provide comprehensive protection, response training and mental-health services for at least five years.
The partnership will introduce an array of tools, technologies and services to Bethalto Community Unit School District 8. The joint initiative, to be implemented in phases beginning this month, follows deep conversations between the two parties about a tailored approach that best serves the district’s needs.
Located in the Metro East region of Greater St. Louis, the school district serves five schools, responsible for the education and wellbeing of approximately 2,500 students.
The partnership recognizes the rising problem of school shootings across the country and the need for long-term, collaborative solutions. 2019 witnessed 25 school shootings, with 51 people killed or injured, according to Education Week.
“School safety is evolving and becoming more complex,” said Dr. Jill Griffin, Bethalto superintendent. “At the heart of our mission, we believe every student deserves to enter our schools feeling safe and secure, with the peace of mind to learn and grow. We’re grateful to forge this partnership with Blue Refuge. They have a ‘people first’ mentality and comprehensive approach, which very much aligns with our vision as a school district.”
“We are thankful to have earned the trust of Bethalto Community Unit School District 8,” said Blue Refuge CEO Marcus Craig. “Our pledge to the community is to provide a comprehensive approach to school safety, using advanced prevention, protection and response solutions.”
Beginning in late January, several solutions will be implemented, including integrated alarming and emergency notification technology. The system will be responsive to buttons on staff badges. When pressed, the buttons send instant alerts across the school and to local law enforcement and district personnel. The notifications are tagged with the exact location of the alert-sender within the school. In addition, Blue Refuge will provide mental health training for counselors and faculty, administered by Blue Refuge’s on-staff licensed mental health practitioner.
In February, social media monitoring will be implemented, along with protective window films to help guard against intrusions. Active-shooter response training will be deployed across the district and Stop the Bleed kits will be distributed to each classroom.
The mental health component is critical to the partnership. Led by its on-staff mental health professional, Blue Refuge will implement training programs for school counselors and faculty using best practices to teach risk identification and therapeutic responses. The solution is designed to recognize signs of distress or emotional crises.
“Our philosophy is proactive rather than reactive,” said Craig. “As we see youth mental health continuing to decline, creating positive communities and connective relationships will be increasingly critical in schools. Blue Refuge wants to be a part of the process of supporting, healing and helping the social and emotional well-being of today’s youth.”
According to market research solicited by Blue Refuge to gauge the attitudes of parents of school-aged children, 79 percent of parents are “somewhat or very worried” about the possibility of a school shooting occurring at their child’s school. Thirty percent have children who have expressed feeling unsafe at school.
Blue Refuge’s team of mental health, safety, and technology professionals will serve in a long-term capacity, providing input on how to prevent and respond to school violence as technology and community needs evolve over time.
About Blue Refuge
Blue Refuge is a collaborative team of industry experts focused on building prevention, protection and response solutions that reduce the threat of active shooter events. We work with schools, businesses and local government organizations across America to develop customized mental health programs, prevention plans and protection measures. Our approach puts people first to provide better learning and working environments through long-term peace of mind. For more information, visit BlueRefuge.com and follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook.