May 27. 2022
I am writing to you this morning, as this tragic week in our nation comes to a close. There are no words for the grief that the families in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas must be feeling. Thirty-one lives were taken – children and teachers who showed up for school and black community members who stopped at their local grocery store and were killed by a white supremacist, as a result of hateful ideology that has been embraced and fueled by extremists in our country. It’s unimaginable to think about the countless lives forever changed.
While there are not words for this kind of horror and grief, I wanted to pause before the end of the week and acknowledge what so many of us are holding. The feeling of helplessness is overwhelming. The helplessness that comes with trusting what are supposed to be safe spaces – going to school to learn or to teach, walking in a neighborhood, going grocery shopping, going to a place of worship, driving to work – and yet continuing to be reminded how vulnerable and unprotected we are, especially children and members of BIPOC communities.
I also wanted to acknowledge how alarming it must have been to parents who were dropping off children yesterday at our Minnetonka campus to see police officers managing a situation on our site. If you are a parent of children receiving services at our Minnetonka center, you received an email yesterday morning from Jayson Palm, our Facilities and Risk Management Director. Please be assured that no child, parent, or staff member was ever at risk during the incident. An intoxicated man, who is not associated with St. David’s Center, was dropped off at our front door by a cab driver. Our front desk staff immediately notified our Crisis Management Team (CMT), and the team arrived within 60 seconds. Along with a dad who was in the lobby, the CMT staff escorted the man out of the building. The police were then called to manage the situation. They handled it with great respect for the community and the man involved. I recognize, however, that we are all on high alert, given this week’s horrific school shooting, and I am sure it was disturbing to see the police car by our front door.
This has been a horrendous and heart-wrenching week, and I am keenly aware that all parents are wondering what their schools, childcare centers, and clinics are doing to prevent this kind of horror from happening. While there are so many actions we need to take as a nation to address gun laws and support a strong mental health system, every school and child-serving organization must have well-built crisis management systems in place to protect children, families, and staff. I would like to share with you what we have done at St. David’s Center.
Six years ago, we hired a security consultant to complete a crisis management assessment. He worked with our facilities and risk management director and our leadership team to evaluate and develop a new security and risk management plan. As a result, a number of key measures have been put into place:
While we feel as though our crisis management system is strong and effective, in light of recent events, we will be spending time with our Safety Committee and leadership team to evaluate our current procedures and make changes to strengthen them wherever possible. Please be assured that we also evaluate each and every critical event to learn from them and strengthen our processes in real time. However, this is an important moment in time that we will use to pause, assess our procedures, retrain staff, and make additions that could increase the security systems already in place.
This is a long message but an important one. I hope it reassures you that we have built an effective crisis management system. That said, please feel free to reach out to Jayson Palm or me at any time. The safety of the children under our care and our staff members is our first priority – all day and every day.
I am wishing everyone a good long weekend and hoping it brings families together in ways that are healing and comforting.
Julie Sjordal, CEO, St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development
Jayson Palm, Director of Facilities and Risk Management, St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development