Columbia Valley Pioneer Staff

As School District 6 annually assesses the risk of violence to schools, Rocky Mountain administrators believe the current “risk level is low.

In a May 9 report by Superintendent Karen Shipka and District Health and Safety Officer Surrena Craig, the district is prepared by recognizing and mitigating the risk of violence, whether it be physical, verbal or psychological.

In the past two years, each school in the district has completed their own risk assessments, which evaluate circumstances and locations that may present a danger. This is followed up by mitigation and prevention. Shipka said this is a WorkSafe BC requirement for all workplaces, noting the district offers training and support to students and staff in terms of recognizing the risks.

“After each incident, a debrief is held and we learn how to better our response,” Shipka said, adding, “In the past few years, we have initiated safety protocols such as lockdown, as needed or when directed by the local RCMP.”

In 2021, Columbia Valley schools were in lockdown after a youth had brandished a handgun outside David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS). The youth was subsequently apprehended by the RCMP who seized the firearm which turned out to be a replica.

In 2019 a DTSS student posed a video of himself with a gun and a message saying ‘don’t come to school tomorrow’ on social media, which led to his arrest and an investigation.

Shipka said the systems they have in place have recognized the risks and responded quickly to reduce or eliminate them. 

“The risk level for schools in School District 6 is considered low,” she stated, noting that all schools practice six fire drills, two lockdown and two hold and secure drills annually. She added that all drills are documented and individual safety or evacuation plans are created.

Shipka said the district will be launching an emergency preparedness and response webpage on its website. 

The superintendent said the district works closely with local RCMP to ensure their practices are current and appropriate for the risk. “This includes keeping all exterior doors locked except the front door.” Unless directed to lock the front door, it is important that we have a safe access point for staff and students to enter if there are external risks (wild animals or environmental factors) that may put students or staff at risk of harm.”

Shipka said their focus is being proactive, not reactive. 

“The key to violence prevention is recognizing the risk and behaviours associated with violence. Violence prevention is everyone’s responsibility,” she said.