[written by Head of School, Eric Bradley]
In the days after the tragic shootings in Parkland, Florida, I shared a response on behalf of the school. In that note, I promised to address security on our campuses, and since then, I have spent a great deal of time considering what to share about this topic. I have struggled with the appropriate balance between transparency and the liability that such transparency might furnish. As I have considered what to write, one passage of Scripture continues to come to mind:
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” I Peter 5:6-9
Peter’s words are as relevant today as when he wrote them as we consider the evil that continually surrounds us. In addition to the warning, he reminds us that we are not alone in dealing with this challenge or the evil prevalent throughout the world. This passage commands us to be sober and vigilant. This is the driving thought as we consider the safety of everyone that comes onto our campus.
In light of the call to be sober (clear-headed) and vigilant (alert, attentive, cautious, and observant), several actions have been taken to improve campus safety for our students and staff. These changes include, but are not limited to the following:
- The exterior doors on both campuses are locked and only accessible through fobs or keypads.
- On both campuses, guests are required to submit identification that is scanned through the Raptor Security System, providing the school with a rapid background check.
- Security cameras have been added on both campuses to provide increased visibility of our doorways and property and can be accessed by our administrators at any time.
- On the upper campus, the rearrangement of the front desk allowed for the installation of a large screen monitor that provides visibility of the main doors on that campus. The glass treatments in the reception area allow for individuals to see out, but not for guests to see in.
- On the lower campus, security camera images are monitored throughout the day by the administrative team.
- In the Activity Building, the solid entrance door was replaced with one that has a window to allow staff to see outside the building.
- The school continues the practice of monthly drills and periodic staff emergency training.
- This year, we required staff and student drivers to have identifying stickers on their windshields to help us track people on campus.
- We have been intentional about partnering with our local police forces (Cary on the Upper Campus and Raleigh on the Lower Campus) and they have responded with an increased presence on both campuses.
- Earlier this year, we created a school safety committee to review and monitor our current practices, as well as make recommendations for changes.
The above points provide a brief overview of some of the steps that have been taken to protect the students and adults on our campuses. There are other things that take place that go unnoticed, but are ways we work to protect our community. For instance, last summer, we allowed our lower campus to be used by the local police as a training facility. These officers participated in drills throughout the building, developing response strategies for different scenarios. We will continue to seek opportunities to connect with local law enforcement agencies in an effort to help them have familiarity with our facilities.
Even with the things shared above, we know there is need for more work to be done. We need to increase the amount of training for our staff and students on how to respond in case of an emergency. As a parent, you are aware of the unique safety challenges our community faces. On the lower campus, the shared property with the church provides challenges in monitoring who comes into the parking lot. The upper campus is very open, with students traveling between our two buildings. To that end, we have coordinated a visit with a team of agents from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI). In April, these agents will review our current security practices and procedures, as well as provide recommendations on how to improve these practices. These recommendations and the work done by our Safety Committee will provide us with a great strategy for improving campus security.
As a GRACE parent, you can help us with campus security in a variety of ways:
- When visiting either campus, always check in at the front desk.
- Please speak to your students about the importance of not opening doors for unknown individuals and of the importance of not propping open doors in any campus building.
- On the Lower Campus, please use the signs provided by the school when picking up your child in carpool.
- When on campus, report any suspicious individuals, behavior, or vehicles.
- As I mentioned in the original email, the more the individual members of our community connect and get to know one another, the greater the safety of our overall community.
- Please cover our campus in prayer every day.
I began this letter by citing a passage from I Peter 5:6-9. I think it only appropriate to conclude the letter with the passages immediately following those, which provides one of the most beautiful blessings in all of Scripture:
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever.” I Peter 5:10-11