ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Students and staff in the Ladue School District are focusing on safety in the new school year. They plan to do it through training and making personal connections.
A handful of Ladue High School students got a crash course in school safety and mental health. The district has also been busy this summer getting its new Safety and Security Coordinator up to speed.
The teens have teamed up with a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit called Students On Safety. Since it was founded in April, more than 70 chapters have popped up in 26 states.
Incoming sophomore, Sophia Liu said the group hopes to offer peer counseling and bridge the gap between students and school counselors.
"It's ensuring that students are comfortable talking to trained professionals or having a way for them to communicate with these trained professionals so they don't feel awkward or cautious about any of it," said Liu.
Liu said they will reach out to classmates at an actitivies fair and through social media to educate about mental health.
"It's something that might be a sensitive topic, but it's something that needs to be addressed," she said.
Social media plays a big part of students' lives, they said. Incoming senior Olivia DeHaven said she has learned about several mass shootings on social media first.
DeHaven said she feels safe at Ladue High School, but she worries about the increasing gun violence across the country. Students on Safety members will teach classmates about the warning signs to look out for.
"Signs can be as little as sitting alone at lunch and ranging to being quite violent," said DeHaven.
The district is also investing in safety by adding a Safety and Security Coordinator. The former police officer will focus on training staff and supporting the district's one school resource officer.
"There's so much training that goes on just in the very first part of this year," said Susan Downing, Communications Director for Ladue Schools. "Before September is even over, every single staff member in our district will be trained in active shooter situations, in intruder situations."
Downing said the district, which serves approximately 4,000 students from ten municipalities, also has two school psychologists and two social workers, and each school has a counselor.