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Bend-La Pine Schools boosting safety efforts

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Feb 14 2014 12:01:56 AM CST

Less than a week after a Bend High student commits suicide on campus, school officials unveil plans to beef school safety.

BEND, Ore. -

With flowers, signs of support and ribbons, the outpouring of love continues at Bend High School -- and school officials say that well before last week's tragedy, they already were working on making changes to make sure loved ones are safe.

"Ever since Friday, it's been around the clock," Bend-La Pine School Communication Director Julianne Repman said Thursday.

Last Friday a Bend High student took his own life on campus, prompting an hours-long lockdown and shaking a tight-knit community.

Now school officials say they're taking action and unveiling several programs to increase school safety.

The first is a pilot texting program to be launched this spring.

"Students will have an opportunity to text if they're feeling suicidal or that they're being bullied," Repman said. "It's a two-way conversation that can be monitored from one location."

Repman said the texting program also will allow students to privately share concerns and problems with their peers or the the school.

It's something Repman says the school hasn't thrown together in just a week -- instead it's part of a safety initiative following a tragedy much further from home: the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012.

"We got together and said, 'Okay, some of these climates are changing. What is it we need to do with what's happening out in our world?'"

In the coming months, Bend-La Pine Schools, and the region, are beefing up support to keep kids safe.

The district will hire a fifth school resource officer,  and the tric-ounty's 'Safe School Alliance' program is hiring a regional safety manager.

Repman said an outside firm will also be hired this year to conduct a safety analysis of each school in the district.

"They'll be looking at a school site and saying, 'This is a vulnerability,' and letting us know what our best practices are."

Future schools in the district could come equipped with bullet-proof glass.

"We worked with police, law enforcement and architects when looking at our new schools," Repman said.

Repman said the district has formed another partnership with police in recent years. If police are in the area of a school and need to finish up paperwork, they'll go to the school to complete it.

More tools in the box to keep kids safe, but school officials also said plain old-fashioned communication is key to preventing tragedy.

"What we've heard time and time again (following the suicide) is students really need to tell one another," Repman said. "That is our biggest takeaway: How do we really empower kids to make sure they are telling adults, or even their friends?"

Repman said the school district is still waiting on the full police report on the incident so it can continue to evaluate the response to the suicide and other improvements that may be necessary.

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