Since the tragic shooting in February at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., I have been asked what St. Charles County is doing to help prevent similar incidents from occurring. As a former educator, the safety of our community, schools and children are among my top priorities. My administration has worked over the past several years with schools, law enforcement and a variety of organizations and leaders in our community to put programs in place to create safe educational environments.
While the Missouri Constitution gives charter counties no authority over the operation of schools, after the tragedy at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the County Council supported my efforts to bring professionals in the community together to help students. In December 2012, the Council passed an ordinance establishing the “Schools, Mental Health & Emergency Services Task Force,” which consists of public school superintendents and private school principals, chief law enforcement officers, a circuit judge, chief juvenile officer, mental health professionals and county council members. This task force continues to provide support and ongoing collaboration with St. Charles County schools.
A key partner in these efforts is the St. Charles County Community & Children’s Resource Board (CCRB). The CCRB is supported by a dedicated county-wide sales tax approved by voters in 2004, and works to assess mental health needs and connect youth and their families to interventions and professional care. Since 2013, the CCRB has been coordinating and funding mental health crisis training for school faculty. That initial training has grown in scope and reach and now trained trauma teams are available for every public school building in the county. This year, 400 school teachers and faculty serving pre-K through high school students have been trained.
In Connecticut, and apparently in the recent Florida tragedy, an emotionally disturbed young man made a horrific decision to take the lives of innocent school children and staff. Through the CCRB’s ongoing work connecting children and families with early interventions and training school personnel, we seek to avoid a student reaching a mentally unstable condition that ends in such tragedy.
Following are additional steps St. Charles County Government has taken to help our schools:
- In 2013, St. Charles County school districts reassessed their security measures. To assist, the County made radios available for purchase at our cost that allow both public and private schools to connect directly to the County’s emergency radio communication system, law enforcement and other first responders throughout the county.
- In 2017, the St. Charles County Police Department began an educational program for fifth graders called “S.T.A.R.T., which covers issues facing youth in our county. It includes lessons about abuse of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, pills, powders, inhalants, as well as cyber bullying and citizenship.
Additionally, local schools have long had access to make arrangements to have city and County law enforcement officers for their school buildings.
I also was asked how St. Charles County can do more to regulate firearms. The State of Missouri regulates firearms, which means a political subdivision like St. Charles County cannot legislate further restrictions. The St. Charles County Police Department is responsible, under state law, for issuing concealed carry permits to residents who make application. All requirements of state law, including background checks, are strictly followed.
Again, safety for the community and our children is a priority in St. Charles County and something we always seek to improve. Our hearts and prayers are with those communities that have experienced such tragic events.
I welcome your comments, ideas and suggestions; please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
. If you would like to reach out to your state and federal elected officials as well, contact information is available on the County website
by searching “state officials.”