Students from Borah Elementary School saved Idaho first lady Lori Otter from a llama.
About 175 third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders shouted and pointed at the intruder, warning her there was a threat.
“It’s OK if you see an otter at your school,” the first lady said to the students. “But if you saw a llama in your hallway, or a left bag or a stranger, how many of you would stop that person and ask them what they were doing in your school?”
Everyone raised their hand.
Otter and her llama sidekick — actually the school counselor in a costume — taught kids at Borah Wednesday to See, Tell, Now!
Idaho’s Legislature passed a bill this year to open an Office of School Safety and Security. Since its inception this summer, the office has been working on the "See, Tell, Now!" program, which encourages students and community members to tell someone immediately if they see something out of place or someone who shouldn’t be where they are.
“Kids are trained at a very early age, especially in our state, to be respectful of adults, so it’s very difficult for them sometimes to question someone who doesn’t have a name tag or who looks like they belong at the school,” Otter told The Press after the assembly. “The campaign is presented in a way to raise awareness without scaring kids.”
Superintendent Matt Handelman introduced Otter to the students. He told them the district takes their education very seriously.
“Part of that,” he said, “is making sure we keep you safe every day.”
During the assembly, Otter discussed how to overcome fears and how to deal with scary things. First you see something, then you tell someone about it — now. Each section of students got to shout ‘See,’ ‘Tell’ and ‘Now,’ using their best outside voices.
Otter also swore-in each student as an undercover agent during the assembly.
“If you see a bullying problem, if you see something that’s not the way it’s supposed to be, you tell someone,” she said. “You are your own undercover agent ... You’re looking out for a llama.”
“I think it’s a great way to get kids aware and involved,” Handelman said after the assembly. “Like Lori said, they put a cute hook on it for the students.”
The second half of the
campaign is to assess school building safety at each one of Idaho’s 700 public schools over three years.
The assessments come with ideas on how to make improvements. Many schools can’t get funding for new cameras, but many “blind spots” can be fixed with a change in schedule of monitors or requiring people to enter the building through one door so the front desk can see everyone who comes in.
“I can’t think of a better argument to make for a fiscal budget allocation than the safety of your students,” Otter said. “I see them [assessments] as a tool for districts to say, ‘These are our shortfalls and this is what we need.’”
Each building will get two assessments, an initial assessment to point out any blind spots, or areas of needed improvement, and a second assessment to see how effective any changes were.
Otter emphasized the assessments aren’t intended to be punitive, or to tell schools what they are doing wrong, rather where they can improve.
“We are trying to get ahead of the curve on that and make sure we can keep our buildings and schools as safe as we possibly can,” Otter told The Press. “It’s another set of eyes on a problem that affects everybody so we can move forward and bring the best possible safety program to our schools and districts.”
Borah fifth-graders Kaylee Eckhart and Jessica Arneson contributed to this report.
Idaho first lady Lori Otter answers students' questions about school safety during a "See Tell Now" assembly Wednesday at Borah Elementary.