School security, student safety focus of assembly at Rome Free Academy


School security, what can be done to prevent a tragedy like the Feb. 14 Florida school shooting, and students’ social/emotional mental health were addressed by Rome school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake in sessions with Rome Free Academy students.

Two student assemblies on school safety were held Wednesday at RFA with Blake and RFA Principal Brian LeBaron, the school district said. “Because of the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the superintendent felt it was important to hold these assemblies to answer questions and concerns,” the district noted.

Blake’s message included, “these are not easy conversations to have, but these are important to have....If you see something, say something. If you see a friend that is struggling, a change in behavior, ask someone about it, reach out to someone.”

Blake added “the district has a lot of internal and external resources available to help students....If you have a question or concern, or your family has a question or concern, please email me (at It is not the end of the discussion, it is the beginning.”

RFA students had been planning an organized walkout on Feb. 26 to peacefully protest gun control and honor the victims of school shootings since the 1999 Sandy Hook massacre, according to a Feb. 23 email to the Daily Sentinel from a RFA student. But the walkout subsequently was rescheduled for March, according to the student.

Blake said in a Feb. 24 tweet, “RFA friends: we will be working with the student council & staff to support your desire & right for peaceful protest against school violence.” He said to “be patient, organized, & unified with other schools....You will be heard!”

When asked about the tweet, Blake said last week “it was simply a measure to allow student leaders an opportunity to organize in a thoughtful way, as opposed to having many potential copy cat walkouts to avoid being in class.” Regarding what that may include, he said “I can’t elaborate on what it may involve as any organized event would come from the student body.” He noted “schools are not legally able to take a position on political issues, so we will not be conducting any district-organized events. What I will be doing is supporting our amazing students in the endeavors they want to pursue.” The RFA assemblies originally had been scheduled for Friday last week, but were postponed due to the snowstorm that day. Blake had mentioned the scheduled assemblies at the Board of Education meeting on Thursday night last week. Blake also told the board that district representatives had met with local law enforcement officials to review school safety measures. He said all parties agreed that “what we have in place” is good. He also commented that the “best defense” for any school is a “see something, say something” approach.

The district is looking at improvements to some outdated camera systems in some schools, Blake observed. But law enforcement officials overall “feel good about our safety plan,” he said.

Blake could not be reached this morning for further comment on the assemblies.


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