Increased collaboration, Stop the Bleed kits among improvements to student safety in Carmel

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David Woodward has been very busy since joining Carmel Clay Schools as director of student services less than a year ago.

On Aug. 14, Woodward gave the CCS board of trustees an update on several recent changes aimed at improving student safety across the district. Many updates were implemented with the start of the new school year. Others are still works in progress.

One noticeable change is quick reference emergency procedures posted at every school, designed to efficiently communicate the most important information to whoever is in the building because inhabitants often vary depending on the time of day.

“If there’s anything we learned from our own explosion (Dec. 26 at Carmel High School), we have a lot of people in our buildings who are not familiar with our buildings and safety protocols,” Woodward said.

CCS also is working to improve collaboration at its campuses and beyond. The district’s 24 school safety specialists – which includes at least one at each campus – have begun meeting monthly to share ideas and feedback.

Woodward said CCS is partnering with other local school districts to create a countywide Mental Health Response Team. Team members will receive training to ensure they all “speak the same language,” Woodward said, so the entire group can be mobilized quickly and provide resources beyond what a single district can offer.

The district is preparing for worst-case scenarios by providing all school nurses and administrators with Stop the Bleed kits, which are stocked with supplies for treating traumatic injuries until additional help arrives. Woodward provided each school board member a kit and in two minutes taught them how to use a tourniquet during the workshop. 

Other changes include the installation of flashing blue lights for visual emergency alerts in areas of a building that are not ideal for hearing an announcement on the public address system, repurposing a maintenance truck to provide traffic support and the implementation of a family reunification plan for emergencies when students are removed from a school building in large groups.

Woodward, who began working for CCS after 13 years as the Indiana Dept. of Education’s director of school building, physical security and safety, said he’s happy with the progress CCS has made in the last year but that there’s still “a lot of work to do.” He’d like to see improved student access to mental health services and make technological upgrades as they become available.

He also wants to see a school resource officer in every Carmel school, a goal largely dependent on the success of a school safety referendum that will be on the Nov. 5 ballot. Voters will be asked whether they support a new tax of 5 cents per $100 of assessed home value to support school safety initiatives.

If approved, the referendum is expected to generate $5 million per year and be used to add school resource officers in elementary schools, fund mental health programming and provide school safety training for teachers.

CCS has seven school resource officers, with four at Carmel High School and one at each of the three middle schools. A successful referendum would allow the district to add an officer at each of the 11 elementary schools and support an additional two officers in the future.

A new state law allows school districts to dedicate up to 10 cents per $100 of assessed value for school safety. CCS Supt. Michael Beresford said the district settled on half that amount to avoid collecting taxes it doesn’t need.

“That is the number we came to that would give us what we need right now and give us some margin for the future,” he said. “We know we could’ve gone for 10 cents, but we wanted to be prudent.”

STOPit success

In December 2018, Carmel Clay Schools introduced the STOPit app, which allows students, teachers and parents to report issues and concerns in real time that might impact student safety, whether individually or as a student body.

CCS Director of Student Services David Woodward told the school board Aug. 14 that the app was used 4,824 times during the previous school year, with 1,034 of the reports made anonymously.

“I can say with absolute confidence we’ve saved at least one life by implementing this app,” Woodward said. “My belief is that we’ve saved more than that.”

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