Fulton principal: fostering relationships with students, best way to keep them safe

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FULTON, Ill. (KWQC) – A soft lockdown at Fulton High School was put in place because of a credible threat.

Safety measures meant to protect students were able to be put in place because a teen brought it to the attention of faculty.

“I love that our students have confidence in talking to the teachers here and the other administration and myself and if they think something’s going to happen they bring it to us right away,” said Principal Chris Tennyson.

He says students sharing concerns is the most inexpensive and effective safety tool schools have.

“In light of where we’re at, the funding we currently have to make schools safer, which there isn’t a lot of it, it’s the number one thing we can do,” Tennyson said.

This is especially important, the principal says, in a world where information travels quickly.

“We use that word like ‘credible threat’ a lot, right? Is it a credible threat, isn’t it a credible threat,” Tennyson said. “We really don’t have a lot of time to make those determinations anymore.”

Tennyson says in situations like the one brought to his attention on Tuesday, Feb. 27, his first call is to police.

“When I see something sent to me that involves potential harm to one of my students, there’s no time to waste,” Tennyson said. “The police are on the phone, they’re on their way and I need their assistance.”

His next priority is the security of his school.

“The first thing that we have to do is make sure the students and faculty are safe here in the building,” he said.

Only then, Tennyson says, are parents notified.

“Our parents aren’t in the building, our parents are safe,” he said. “As soon as I made the announcement [Tuesday] and was walking around to classrooms the superintendent was in here with me sending that message out so [parents were notified] fairly quickly.”

Since the soft lockdown, Tennyson’s gotten suggestions from students, parents and teachers about how it went.

“I welcome the feedback,” he said.

He says open dialogue with students is the number one way educators and parents can make a difference.

“It’s our responsibility to help keep our kids safe by fostering those relationships and letting them know that we’re all in this together,” Tennyson said.

Tennyson says he meets with students from each grade level at the beginning of every school year to encourage the see something say something mentality. He says those conversations continue throughout the year when necessary. They just had one after the parkland shooting.