On Patrol: All Together Now! Partnerships Make the Difference in Beaverton
By reaching out to local community agencies, such as local law enforcement, school volunteers, parents and staff, Beaverton (Ore.) School District Director of Public Safety Randy Kayfes has created an environment that not only protects the district’s campuses, but also allows students, parents and staff to express their concerns.
Community outreach is beneficial for most organizations, and campus safety is no different. Outreach can provide great partnerships and connections. Without the help of the community, plans, ideas or events can go south.
As a graduate of Beaverton School District in Beaverton, Ore., Randy Kayfes went back to his alma mater to become the first director of public safety for the district in 1996. Realizing that starting a program would not be an easy feat, Kayfes worked diligently to bring local law enforcement agencies together to build a successful campus safety program. Under Kayfes’ leadership, students, staff and parents feel comfortable expressing their concerns about the district to Kayfes and his safety team.
Additionally, Kayfes has been able to address common problems in his schools, such as false fire alarms, budget restraints and threat assessments. With the help of parents, local law enforcement and nearly 10,000 community volunteers, the Beaverton School District is able to function well so that Chief Kayfes can do what he does best — protect the students.
What are the biggest challenges facing the district right now?
Kayfes: As far as public safety is concerned, one of our biggest concerns is the spotlight on the criminal background checks for our employees and our volunteers. Federal and state laws make it very difficult to do nationwide background checks on our volunteers.
Even though we are beginning a background check process for our volunteers, we’re restricted to statewide checks for that. With 10,000 potential volunteers, that is a huge undertaking.
How are you addressing this challenge?
Kayfes: We have to accept the fact that the only way to do national checks on volunteers is to fingerprint them, and with 10,000 volunteers a year, that’s not going to happen, although we do the best we can.
We’ve had to hire staff in order to handle the increased workload and move forward on that and make sure that we’re legal in our checks. Now, we’re going online with our volunteer checks. Our feeling is that we’re going to be more secure because paper forms can get lost, stolen or misplaced. We can really cut down on that if we can get the volunteers to go online and post their information into our secure database.
Our biggest success is that we partner with other agencies and with the community itself. We rely very heavily on people telling us what they think could be a concern. We have to be seen as an organization that listens to its community.
What about the officers’ relationship with the students?
Kayfes: We have a fabulous relationship with our students. We have pulled guns out of our campuses because as buses arrive, students feel comfortable to come to our staff and say, “Johnny or Susie has a gun. I wanted you to know that.”
One of our big concerns is the airsoft gun situation; they’re not the real thing, but they certainly look enough like it, or have been modified to look like the real thing. That’s a huge danger for the student who brings one of those because he/she will be treated as if he/she has a real weapon.
How does the department handle a situation involving a fake or real weapon?
Kayfes: If there is a rumor of a weapon on our campus, we’ve agreed to inform our law enforcement partners immediately. We do have a protocol.
Because they are our partners, they want us to continually communicate with them. We have the backing of the entire police department, sheriff’s office and school resource officers (SROs).
We have quarterly meetings where we draft our protocols. As we’re drafting it, we’re talking to them about it– we’re not just waiting on their approval.
During our Public Safety Education Partnership Breakfast we go through three scenarios. We always start with an easy scenario that everyone can agree on. People often try to start from a disagreement and then try to figure out how to get to an agreement. I think it’s better to start from agreement and continue ramping up the difficulty so you can keep agreement. It’s much easier to keep agreement than it is to try to find a way out of disagreement.