Message from the Chief
An Open Letter to the Citizens of Oviedo about School Violence
The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida has again brought to the forefront the dangers facing school children everywhere. Foremost on parents’ and family members’ minds are how safe are my children? What is being done to protect them? Is there anything I can do to help? What does my child need to know? These are some of the questions I hope to address through this open letter.
I understand the heightened awareness and uneasiness of many parents about sending their children to school. I want to assure you that the Oviedo Police Department, and all other Seminole County law enforcement agencies and the Seminole County School Board have been working closely together for years to give the best protection possible for your children. We are committed to the safety of your children and their ability to go to school and feel safe. Did you know a police officer or deputy sheriff is assigned fulltime to each of the public schools in the City and Seminole County? This agency has trained for years on how to quickly respond to an emergency at the schools and the School System does periodic tests of security. All of our schools have an Emergency Response Plan that informs school personnel of necessary actions to take in the event of a critical incident. Schools and the officers assigned to them regularly participate in emergency drills in order to be prepared for a crisis situation. While great strides have been made to protect our children and the staff, we are constantly reviewing and planning to improve the safety and security of schools. The Parkland tragedy, horrific as it was, will be reviewed and lessons learned will be applied to further enhance our schools.
How can you help? Today’s access to social media rumors can spread like wildfire and often results in the spread of information that is far from the actual truth. As Police Chief, I am asking for your help in several ways. If your child comes home and tells you he/she heard or read something on social media that may be a concern, my first request is not to post questions on social media to see if anyone else heard about it, or will be keeping their child home. This does not help with the investigation and could delay the response of law enforcement trying to track down the original source of the information. Make sure your child knows to share information with school administrators as soon as possible, in that timely reporting helps.
How do you pass on unsubstantiated information? Seminole County Public School web sites include information under Safety and Security about how to report this information. Included on their web site is the Speakout Hotline 1-800-423-TIPS (Crimeline) that is designed for passing tips to where it can do the most good. Speakout can also be reached on-line at www.speakouthotline.org and there is a downloadable app that can be used on Iphone or Android phones. Students, parents, community members and citizens who suspect or come across information regarding potential school violence are encouraged to report that information to your local police agency (Oviedo Police Department 407-971-5700; or 911).
Make sure your children are familiar with what to do in case of an active shooter incident at their school. Lastly, impress on your children that in today’s environment there is no such thing as joking about shooting up a school or jokingly putting pictures of guns on-line and talking about shooting people at a school or writing similar comments on walls. It may get them arrested. Thank you for taking the time to read this important information. I pray for the safety of all the children and school staff in our community. Children are the future of our community and country. Together we make a difference.
Oviedo, FL Chief of Police