School District Addresses Criticisms Over Communication During Recent Gun Incident

Dr Mark Bullimore speaks at a school board meeting

Sept. 12, 2023 — At the recent Excelsior Springs School Board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Mark Bullimore responded to criticisms concerning the district’s handling of communication with families during an incident in which a middle school student brought an unloaded gun to school.

Dr. Bullimore commended the rapid response by staff, students, and emergency personnel. “611 students showed up to the middle school that day, and 611 students got to go home to their families,” he stated. According to Bullimore, a student reported the presence of a potential weapon at approximately 7:12 a.m., and by 7:13 a.m., the situation was already being addressed. School Resource Officers (SRO) and emergency personnel were alerted, and the student and the backpack were separated and secured.

Addressing concerns over the mode of communication used to inform parents about the incident, Dr. Bullimore explained that the district chose to send home a written (email) letter and post updates on social media rather than making phone calls. He cited the logistical challenges of fielding return calls from a large number of families, which could tie up phone lines needed for emergency communications. “The last thing you want in an emergency situation is both your building and your central office phone lines to be full,” Bullimore noted.

To improve future responses, the district plans to implement an annual security audit that will assess the strengths and weaknesses of its existing systems. Dr. Bullimore revealed that this had already been in the plans prior to the incident. The audit will also explore communication needs and could influence future grants and budget planning.

Additionally, the district is in the process of updating its emergency crisis plans and has secured a grant for a new Raptor alert system. Bullimore said this system will add another layer of security and improve emergency notifications within the school buildings.

“Overall, we’re very proud of how the situation was addressed and resolved,” Bullimore concluded, adding that the quick resolution of the incident was the result of well-practiced policies and procedures. He emphasized that the district would continue to work on ways to improve communication and overall security, acknowledging that “nothing’s ever perfect” but pledging to “keep trying to get better.”

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