When David VanderYacht, Lynden Schools superintendent, put out the call for community members to join the newly created Safety & Security Task Force he wasn’t lacking for interest. VanderYacht is now joined by roughly 30 community members—current Lynden Police Officer Tanner Holland and former police officer Clark Bourgault co-lead the group—all focused on student and staff safety.
“We want to be the community that walked the walk and not just talked the talk,” Bourgault says about working with VanderYacht to put together the task force to respond to the different world current students are growing up in compared to the past. “We want to be on the front foot of making change so our classrooms and schools can be the safest places possible to foster great learning environments.”
VanderYacht says the goal of the task force is to make recommendations to the district for safeguarding students, staff and community members.
After meeting with parents a seed was planted to “bring together people from a range of backgrounds to develop consensus on topics related to school safety and security.” Then, during work on the Bond Planning Task Force, Bourgault encouraged VanderYacht to take the formal step to create a task force focused on security. And as Holland began discussing school safety best practices as part of the research in cost estimates to replace Lynden High School, VanderYacht says replicating the successful Bond Planning Task Force with one focused on safety and security made sense.
“It is critical that we have people who are willing to commit time to keeping our children and educators safe for generations to come,” Holland says. “Me being a part of this committee shows the community and the school district that Lynden Police and other local law enforcement are taking the safety of our children seriously and plan to do everything we can to ensure they do stay safe. I’m so happy to be in the forefront of school safety and I hope this committee sets a precedence throughout the state.”
“The participation from the community is exceptional,” VanderYacht says. “It really blew me away. It’s been a goal of mine to design opportunities to include community members in the community’s schools and this opportunity tapped into a lot of expertise and people are willing to volunteer their time to make sure our schools are the safest they can be.”
Holland says seeing so many people willing to donate their time shows how much the Lynden community cares about their children.
With over 80% of the 30 applicants currently serving in law enforcement or with extensive experience in safety and security, the representation from across federal, state and local jurisdictions offers a “clear strength of the group.” Plus, the inclusion of parents, grandparents and health professionals helps diversify the members.
“My hope for this group,” Holland says about the series of seven meetings from October into April, “is to come together as community members and parents no matter what your background is and generate the best practices that can be put into place within the school district for generations to come so that our children and staff can come to school every day and know we as a community and law enforcement have put our best practices forward. I believe this is the first step in our school district being leaders when it comes to school safety.”
“The group is pretty amazing, with years of experience in all different facets of security and safety,” Bourgault says. “Can we start doing something different, better, new that allows us to say we have done our due diligence and we have done our absolute best to keep our schools safe?”