Campus Safety and Security12/14/2022
Dear PPS Community,
Every single person in Portland Public Schools believes that our learning spaces must be safe, stable, and secure, and that we have a shared responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of the students under our care. We recognize that recent events, both locally and nationally, have rattled our community.
Superintendent Guerrero issued a broader statement about gun violence and its impacts on our schools, but we also want to explain how we both keep schools safe, and keep you informed.
With an immediate threat, school leaders will prioritize ensuring the safety of their students, followed by finding facts and verifying information. Simultaneously, if police have responded, they are securing the scene and beginning their investigation. Once there is credible information to share, it is communicated to impacted families. In a world of cell phones and social media, this means information may reach parents via non-school channels before school leaders can communicate. Please know that we always aspire to communicate as quickly as possible within the demands of the moment.
When school leaders learn of any threat – immediate or otherwise – they engage district experts in their assessment. They begin with their area director and may engage an assistant superintendent, Security and Emergency Management Services, or someone from the Student Success & Health team. If there is an imminent threat, the school will activate its school emergency response plan and call 911 immediately. We may also consult with other governmental agencies who have expertise on the threat. Together, we take appropriate steps to gather more information, such as:
Searching school grounds and other areas as needed
Reviewing social media posts or communications
Calling parents or guardians
Together, district experts and school leaders determine the appropriate response. If the situation requires immediate security or investigative capacity, school officials will call the police. If there is an immediate threat inside the building, the school will go into lockdown, meaning all classrooms will be locked and students / educators will remain inside until the threat is cleared. If there is an immediate threat outside the building, the school will go into secure-the-perimeter, also called lockout. This means all external doors will be locked and no one can enter or leave the building until the threat is cleared. If there is a longer-term concern, the PPS Security team may add additional campus safety personnel.
In nearly every circumstance, school leaders will take steps to enhance their visibility around campus, open lines of communication among staff, raise situational awareness among staff and students, and solicit more information from students and families.
Our buildings are equipped for a variety of emergency needs. All schools have access-controlled doors and are fully secured during the school day. Most of our schools have single points of entry and all visitors must use a buzzer to request access after school has started. Thanks to the 2020 bond, all classroom doors are receiving hardware upgrades that allow for classrooms to be locked from the inside. All schools can broadcast emergency messages throughout the campus, and each system can be activated through every phone in every building. Although the number of cameras varies by school, all schools have surveillance cameras. With the 2020 security bond, we are adding additional interior and exterior cameras to all campuses. And, as you likely hear from your students, our schools conduct emergency drills throughout the school year (including two active threat drills).
Once a response has been determined, school leaders decide how and whether to communicate to the school community. In each instance, the various leaders involved must balance keeping the community informed, preserving the investigation process, and causing alarm. When we communicate, we often share very few details since we may be communicating about an open investigation – an investigation which may involve confidential student information that is protected by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
We recognize that you place your trust in us to keep your students safe in our schools. Please know that we take this responsibility very seriously, and that we strive to honor this commitment every day. Thank you for entrusting us with your students.