Student safety is a top priority of the Richland School District. From the time students step on the morning bus until they walk out of a drama practice in the late afternoon, District staff are watching out to ensure that they arrive home safe and sound.

Your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews are with us seven to ten hours a day, 180 days a year. Nothing is more important to our teachers, coaches and support staff than providing them with a positive and secure learning environment.

One area of emphasis is bullying and harassment. In an effort to eliminate these aggressive behaviors, Richland schools promote an overall and ongoing culture of respect. We obviously can't monitor every hallway conversation, but students are encouraged to help others, be kind to each other and not accept the bullying behavior of others. The Steps to Respect curriculum is one tool we use weekly in the elementary schools. Children who learn to work out their differences with each other in third grade are less likely to resort to threats and fighting when they get to middle school or high school.

At the high schools, security guards and police officers build positive relationships with students as a proactive way to monitor campus life. As they get to know students and spend time around them, trust is established.

For the safety of staff and students, the Richland School District has an Emergency Response Plan in place. It's a practical plan that lines out how we respond to various kinds of emergencies and disasters. Our schools practice evacuation and lock-down drills on a regular basis so students and staff will be prepared when a real emergency happens. The plan includes evacuating students and employees to a backup location should the need arise. This enables the District to more easily account for students and employees, and to provide a safe place until students are reunited with their parents at the backup school or at home if students are transported there.

The Richland School District is not isolated from the possibility of school violence. As a parent, grandparent, neighbor or friend, we must have our eyes and ears open to what is going on in our community. There are children potentially at risk all around us. Let us be alert and vigilant as we try our best to keep Richland schools safe for the outstanding young people who come to learn everyday.