Safety and security protocols and good social media practices were the focus for Union City School System employees on Wednesday’s final day of professional development training.
Longtime School Resource Officer Raphe Whaley and UT Martin professor Dr. Tracy Rutledge were the keynote speakers to more than 200 members of the school system staff who are preparing for Monday’s first day of classes.
Registration is set for all three Union City Schools’ campuses Thursday.
Whaley focused on both preparedness and reactionary tactics when giving guidance to teachers in the wake of deadly school shootings across the country.
“Lock your doors,” the veteran law enforcement officer repeated multiple times. “Put safety at the top of your list every day. We (school administrators and law enforcement) have a plan, and it’s a huge plan in the event we have an intruder issue on any of our campuses.
“But If you see something, say something. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Whaley said UC Schools have been on “soft-lockdown” for the past three years – meaning all exterior doors to the building are always locked. He also showed a video clip from the recent Uvalde (TX) school shooting that stunned his audience and ended his presentation with simulated gunfire (with blanks) in the lobby area of the school to give staff “an idea of what the firing of an AR-15 sounds like.”
“Because of the events at Uvalde in the late spring and the Highland Park mass shooting this summer, our alert is heightened more than ever,” Whaley said. “Unfortunately, and sadly, school violence has become part of our culture.
“Governor (Bill) Lee signed an executive order that creates a school safety resources guide for preparedness.”
Dr. Rutledge’s presentation focused on the challenges of maintaining a good social media presence as an educator and representative of UC Schools.
“You are an extension of Union City Schools in everything you say and do,” Rutledge said. “What you do is who you are. You’re a member of this community and are judged as an employee here. People will also judge your co-workers by the things you post on social media and the things you do.
“The way and the things you post reflect on the entire organization.”
A noted and published professor at UTM where she teaches Mass Media, Strategic Communication and is the coordinator of the Strategic Communication master’s program at the university, Rutledge gave fascinating scientific insight on body chemistry that is part of social media.
“Studies have shown us there are many reasons why we’re addicted to social media,” she explained. “One of them is dopamine – it makes us happy when we get ‘likes’ or positive feedback. Another is oxytocin – we truly ‘love’ social media.”
Dr. Rutledge offered various tips and suggestions on how to manage the many social media accounts to her audience.
“First, social media is never truly private, no matter what your settings say. We want it to be, but it’s not. And if you don’t believe that, it doesn’t excuse you from the consequences of what you post or send. You don’t have to like that, but it’s true. Check your settings,” she said.
“Be responsible. Stop and think of the consequences of anything you post, be it personal or professional. You can’t ‘turn off’ being a representative of Union City Schools.”