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BVSD continues mental health support amid ‘new normal’ of lockdowns

Frequent lockdowns in the district can threaten students’ feelings of safety, and mental health support is imperative, district officials said.
Oct 23, 2021 (50)
Boulder Valley School District

Another lockout occurred Thursday in the Boulder Valley School District after a student brought a BB gun near Boulder High School, district officials said.

The lockout — now called SECURE — is among numerous threats to student safety that have occurred at schools across the district over the past year.

“It impacts them in that school is a safe space for them, and that’s a disruptor to that safe space,” said Tammy Lawrence, director of the Boulder Valley School District’s Student Support Services.

This “new normal” of lockdowns and lockouts means the district has to do everything it can to provide students with mental health services, Lawrence explained. 

“Every situation is different, so we work as a district team to really assess what the needs are, and then respond accordingly,” she said. “We always remind our students that if they need additional support, they can go to their school counselor, and then from there, the school counselor can really handle individual student needs differently.”

That can include more check-ins and additional counseling sessions, Lawrence explained.

The district also aims to boost mental health by ensuring schools respond to threats with consistent routines, she said.

“The more that we can continue to follow our protocols and reassure them that we do have a plan in case something does happen … that brings back that sense of safety for them, because we respond the same way every single time,” Lawrence said.

In the event of high-risk threats — which have occurred several times over the past year — the district has a trauma response team, which pulls counselors from nearby schools for extra support, said Randy Barber, chief communications officer for the Boulder Valley School District.

District schools educate students with lockdown drills that are designed to mitigate fear and trauma, Barber explained.

“We’re not doing what some school districts do in a drill — which is doing live blanks that sound like gunshots, or having an assailant go through corridors,” he said.

Instead, local schools ensure students repeat simple actions so they become “muscle memory,” Barber explained.

“So in a lockdown situation it’s ‘lock, lights, out of sight’ … we absolutely do practice to be prepared,” he said.

Lockdowns and lockouts have occurred at Centaurus High School, Longmont High School, Boulder High School, Casey Middle School and other schools in the district over the past year.

Another way the district manages mental health amid threats — for students and their parents — is by being as transparent as possible, Barber explained. Even if all the information about a threat isn’t immediately available, the district issues any information they have to the public, so students and parents don’t get updates from rumors, he said.

“Social media and the way that things travel these days — any sort of concern can have a pretty big impact,” Barber said. “After all the things that are happening nationwide … we acknowledge the difficulty that people are facing, seeing that the reality is that school shootings — this violence — is very real. It’s understandable that parents are very concerned.”

The frequent threats, drills and protocols have also shown students’ resilience, he explained.

“I don’t want to speak for every student, but for most students now, this is just sort-of built in — this is the post-Columbine generation,” Barber said. “This is not something that is a surprise to them — they know that’s part of going to school now. I think it’s a sad statement, but this is just something they see as normal.”


Amber Fisher

About the Author: Amber Fisher

I'm thrilled to be an assistant editor with the Longmont Leader after spending the past decade reporting for news outlets across North America. When I'm not writing, you can find me snowboarding, reading fiction and running (poorly).
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