New safety steps and protocols in place at SPPS following deadly school year

New safety steps and protocols at SPPS following deadly school year

New safety steps and protocols at SPPS following deadly school year

St. Paul Public Schools is beginning the new school year with new safety protocols and plans, six months after a student was killed inside a high school.

“School safety takes an entire community, from me to our principals, educators, students, families, neighbors and community partners,” Superintendent Dr. Joe Gothard wrote to families in a letter Monday, outlining what he called “new or enhanced measures” to keep students safe.

SPPS students lost a classmate to violence in February when 15-year-old Devin Scott was stabbed to death inside Harding High School.

To create the safety plan and updates, SPPS leaned on students, staff, families, and the community — it says more than 9,000 people shared their thoughts.

The new safety measures include:

  • Clearer language for safety incidents
  • Advanced technology to monitor school hallways and entrances
  • Creating ‘calming spaces’ at 30 schools for students feeling overwhelmed
  • Increasing the number of School Support Liaisons (SSLs)

According to SPPS, there will be up to three SSLs at every high school, and at least one in every K-8 and middle school. The district says the SSLs’ main goal is to build relationships with students while helping with safety.

“We are working on building relationships and really supporting our students,” Jackie Turner, chief of administration and operations for SPPS, said, adding: “Our [SSLs], they support that spectrum, and they’re members of that, as are our St. Paul Police Department are members of our community keeping us safe.”

Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, SPPS ended its contract with the St. Paul Police Department and hasn’t had student resources offices (SROs) in schools since.

“Anything to really improve security is a great sign,” Dash Denison, who will be a senior at a St. Paul high school, said.

Denison is also part of 30,000 Feet, a program preparing St. Paul students for life and careers after high school. Scott, the student who was killed, was part of the program.

“[It’s] still a bit heavy on my heart,” Denison said about losing Scott. “Hopefully we can reduce this stuff and [get rid of it] outright.”

The district will also continue many other safety protocols that were already in place, including its anonymous tip line — something it’s stressing the importance of before class starts next week.

Anyone can share safety concerns through SPPS’ website or through the district’s app.