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Social Media Site Gives Buzz to Garden Valley and School Safety

Garden Valley elk - Photo by Janet Juroch

By Janet Juroch – Staff Writer

I recently sat down with Features Writer, Anne Helen Petersen of BuzzFeed to talk about Garden Valley. Anne was here for work to learn  how a town like rural Garden Valley thrives and what is the impressions made by the GV School initiating the School Safety Protection policy. After she left we talked again. She gave her readers a story about Garden Valley, the people and the school.

Garden Valley School often sits quietly snuggled in its own business. Teachers and students work hard and so often are recognized for their many accomplishments in sports and academics. The Board of Trustees work at making sure the school operations, policies and procedures are adhered to. Somewhere along the line, the school safety policy perked up the eyes and ears of interested people. One day a Features Writer Anne Helen Petersen, from the widely popular online news publication, BuzzFeed, called for an interview. She wanted to know more about Garden Valley, what makes the area unique and why a gun policy initiative for arming the school is in place for protection.

Petersen took time to be involved in the community for several days, going to a basketball game, a proposed sewer district meeting, sitting in coffee shops and the local bar to get a flavor of the community.  She did not want to “parachute in”, do an interview or two and leave. Having lived in Lewiston, Idaho most of her life, she found it easy to relate to what a rural town is like.

Petersen’s desire to approach Garden Valley was simple, after asking her about her visit here. After all, her job and life is in New York now. She states, “As an Idaho native, I feel very protective and proud of the state, and find that it’s often made into a caricature in the national press — filled with hicks and the far, far, right and religious extremists. And while there are some of those people in Idaho, the reality is that Idaho is a very complex, textured place — something I really hoped to communicate in my piece.”

She interviewed people as to their reaction to the school protection policy. Some were wondering “why?” while others figured it was “about time the school do something.” Many school districts all over the US, especially in rural areas are still struggling to find a solution that meets the needs for their particular area. After the Sandy Hook shooting, schools looked into recommendations from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the National Education Association (NEA). Proposals from these organizations were looking at different ideas from trained and armed personnel to looking at the mental health support staff.

Rural Districts often run into insurance issues and costs.  Garden Valley School made sure that they had a plan that dealt with psychological and legal matters in the event of a school shooting.  This made a Boise based insurance company accept the school safety policy. Much time and effort was given to the policy especially since law enforcement response time is a huge factor in protecting the school.

Anne stated, “Everyone that I talked to had a slightly different take on Garden Valley, and I loved talking, sometimes for hours, about the various things that made Garden Valley unique. It was also fascinating to deliberately try to “understand” a town — most people don’t go someplace with that goal, but I got to seek out the different corners of the town (the sewer meeting, the arts spaces, the restaurants, the stores, the school) that form its heart.”

Petersen covers quite eloquently the need for protection in a rural school, but also writes of the nuances of Garden Valley. BuzzFeed is a social media internet darling founded by the creators of the Huffington Post. They often reach a younger audience who frequent the internet. Somehow, the idea that a journalist from New York touched our valley for a short visit, painted a beautiful portrait  and told our story to a worldwide audience is flattering to say the least. Thank you Anne and come again!

Story can be found at   http://www.buzzfeed.com/annehelenpetersen/hard-target#.mmwdzbPE2