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Author Topic: What is your school system doing to keep the schools safe?  (Read 232 times)

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Offline Wilbur

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What is your school system doing to keep the schools safe?
« on: February 28, 2018, 08:12:42 PM »
So Shawn's post on dealing with a jerk kid I referenced a town meeting I went to last night in my town where the Police, the school administrators, the fire chief discussed what plans they have on place for protection of the kids. I will go through later and list what our town does in a series of steps (It's reasonably thorough albeit light on armed protection), but I'm on my phone and it would be a pita to try to post the whole thing with my thumbs.

I'm curious what folks are seeing in their towns. I have a good relationship with our chief and he's always open to hearing ideas so love to see what you guys are that is working (or not!) and why?
« Last Edit: February 28, 2018, 08:13:19 PM by Wilbur »

Offline cudakidd53

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Re: What is your school system doing to keep the schools safe?
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2018, 08:33:11 PM »
School I work at is limiting the number of unlocked doors at start of the day (4) with all locked beginning of 1st period. Each of the doors are staffed and after school begins, only two will be accessible and buzz in only.

Additionally, all classroom doors locked at all times.  Teachers at the door in halls between classes. Supposed to have PD presentation next institute day - hope that they speak the plain harsh truth to all my liberal colleagues and pass out adult diapers and pacifiers to help them cope!
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Offline Wilbur

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Re: What is your school system doing to keep the schools safe?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2018, 11:40:43 AM »
This will be a long post and I am sorry for that. But I welcome any ideas you guys have and want to include everything that was discussed.

So here is what our town meeting covered this week. Overall as I said I thought it was good but most of you have far more tactical knowledge than I ever will so comment freely! I have a good relationship with the schools and our police chief so welcome thoughts, advice, etc. good and bad. My overall premise is that mental health is the issue facing these kids that commit these acts and that while we need society to work on finding a solution to these problems, to only do that means keeping kids at risk while society tries to figure out what's going on, and that is unacceptable. I know for me, I want armed security of a variety of types all over the school, I want a police presence, I want armed guards and I want armed teachers. I also want teachers trained in 1st responder roles to know how to stop bleeding etc.

I want "go kits" (for lack of a better term) in every room with the necessary supplies to get through a lock down situation, and also 1st aid stuff (anti-clot etc.). Now is this overkill in a small town of 9,000 people? Sure, the odds are the next kid to die in town will be from a DUI or texting accident rather than a shooter, but as HC posted so well the other day, we have sprinklers in the schools and public buildings not to prevent fires, but to prevent deaths from fires (HC- I have to admit I have stolen your example many times in the past couple of weeks- I think it totally embodies what we all want to see in place).

By way of background and to "set the stage", in our town we have K-12 on 1 large campus. There are 4 "schools", K-2,3-5,6-8 grades are three "schools" but are all connected by hallways which are locked most of the time so HS kids cant go into the K-2 etc. (but I am sure there are some doors that are open I'm just not that familiar with that part). The HS is a stand alone school but has walkways to the Middle School which obviously then connects to the others. Kids go back and forth between the HS and Middle school daily as all music events are in the Middle School while some Middle Schoolers come to the HS for certain things. The main entrances to the schools all use a video monitor system and only buzzed in access once school starts. Teachers have a responsibility to monitor the halls when not in class and anyone seen in the halls who doesn't have a "visitor" badge (which everyone gets from the office upon checking in) is walked to the office by the teacher, not just told to go to the office. 

Also as background our town is a rural town (for MA) but covers 35 square miles and has 9,000 people. There is 1 "highway" that runs through town N-S with almost all the businesses located on that highway or just off it. The school is approximately in the center of town (which I will touch on later as one of my concerns with response times).

So the meeting started with a presentation by the Police Chief who is a good guy, typical small town chief, but a pretty aware guy, not a Barney Fife by any stretch. His kids are at the schools. He laid out the basics, the challenges of protecting a sprawling campus and the fact that they can't protect against every situation. He said they have had plans in place since about 1998 (he's been in town iirc 14 years and been chief for 5 or 6?). He said the plans undergo at least an annual review and any time there is an event (like FL) they use reports that come out and stack them against the plan they have in place to look for changes or tweaks they should make. But he said the challenge is to maintain a safe place, but not make the school a prison, which I get. He also reiterated the point that they could put all the resources toward preventing 1 thing (school shooter with a gun) but if the "event" is something different they may find that the plan in place doesn't address that particular issue, so while you prepare for certain things its important to realize that you won't have a plan for every last scenario that can occur.

They hired a consultant 7 or 8 years ago who went through the school from a bunch of different perspectives and at all different times trying to find holes in security (climbing onto the roof at night to plant things or try to find open hatches doors, etc.), He said the consultant's report came back with 2 terabytes of info on good, bad, suggestions etc. (these he said specifically he would not be sharing in public but if anyone had questions to come talk to him- which I totally appreciated).

He then turned the presentation over the (now former) SRO (School Resource Officer- a full time cop who's sole responsibility is the school). She is back to being a patrol cop as they just hired a new SRO who is a former Marine with two tours in his background (brings me confidence). The SRO is on school grounds from 7-3 (so just before school starts to after the last bus leaves). The SRO works with all the admin- principals, guidance, etc. on anything relating to the kids and discipline, etc. There is a Monday AM meeting every week with all the principals, guidance and the SRO. The SRO reviews all police activity every week (if not more) so is aware of every police call in town (again, small town so probably takes 10 minutes to read all the calls ha!). They are looking for anything that may have an impact to any of the kids in school- it might be the kid themself getting in trouble, but also might be a brother or sister getting in trouble, or a parent having difficulty, anything that might affect the kid the SRO is aware of and brings it up in the meeting so the admin & guidance are aware and pay some extra attention to the child to look for any impacts to them. Fortunately IMO this is one of the benefits of a small town where that type of communication across all lines and all aspects of the town is possible.

She said they use the ALICE training program with the schools and all teachers. She said she likes ALICE due to its flexibility where one class may be in lockdown but another class right next to them may need to evacuate. She said the goal is to teach every teacher how to respond to whatever is going on and make the right decision for their class at that point and that those responses may differ for one school versus the other or even, as she said, classes right next to each other.

She highlighted the challenges that the school faces in terms of its design and construction. And this sort of went back to the desire to have a school, not a prison, but with that it brings challenges, so in one school (K) every room has a door to the outside whereas the other schools don't. The new HS has a large window in every classroom right next to the door (again, a challenge). But trying to find that balance of a school versus a prison is not easy.

They talked about what drills they run with the kids and how to teach different age kids what is and is not appropriate. She said its easier with HS kids as they are aware. But she said when talking to kindergarten kids and explaining they have to listen to the teacher and if the teacher says to run from danger how to do that. She said the kids are taught that "running from danger" is taught a little differently in that they are taught to run zig-zag so "danger doesn't get them" (I have to say this kind of choked me up- I'm REALLY glad little kids are being taught this and being done in an age appropriate way, but what a crappy thing to have to explain to 5 year olds. sheesh).

After she finished the Superintendent discussed the mental health items that the administrators and guidance discuss and go over. He discussed the Monday AM meeting that I referred to earlier and looking for anything that may have an impact on a kid. He talked about the importance of having a variety of activities for kids (athletics, band, theater, music, clubs etc etc) so that kids "stay connected". He said the dangers often occur when kids start to feel alienated or ostracized and are alone. He described how any time a kid is eating by themself at lunch the teachers and guidance try to see what's going on and how to help. The schools have tried to have a decent anti-bullying program and by and large I think its positive. I know from my own kids that its not as good as they think it is but its better than not having it and I think they are working on it which is good.

He said he decided to not have a principal in the K-2 school and instead hired two guidance counselors to try to identify any issues kids are having early on. He is a typical school superintendent who rose through the ranks from teacher and while his heart is totally in the right place about educating kids he is very much a liberal with all that means (especially here in MA) but I am pleased that he recognizes the importance of school safety and the need to have the police plans as part of the protections the school needs. I just worry that he would poo-poo something due to his liberal bent. But its obvious he listens to the police and they have a good relationship.

The presentation part was ended and it was opened up for questions. One of the first was from a long time resident (graduated from the school, all 4 of his kids graduated from there and has 3 grandkids there now) who asked (obviously in response to FL) what the rule was about engagement should a shooter be at the school. It was interesting, the chief had spoken the entire time in a pretty easy going manner, somewhat self-deprecating, in a sort of folksy way which is his manner. But on this question I heard a very distinct change in his tone. He said that there is one rule that every officer on his force has when it comes to an active shooter and that is immediately, before anything else, engage and eliminate the shooter. He said every cop in town (including him) has an AR in the car, a ballistic (not reg Kevlar vest) vest in the trunk and a go bag with extra ammo. He said every single cop in town knows that in this event their job is to get to the school immediately and eliminate the threat. (This last part is one of the concerns I have which I will touch on in a minute).

A question was asked about video surveillance and communication with the police station. Every one of the schools has a pushbutton "push to talk" communication to the police station that is on all the time. Currently the school system video cameras are not monitored full time at the police station (everyone in the school admin staff has the ability to see any camera any time on their computers) but the police have the ability to switch it on and "see" the feed any time they want. (We are in the process of building a new police station and he said that might change but he needs to discuss with the school committee and the schools about full time monitoring of the feed before putting it in place). 

So here are the concerns I have-

1. The Town is too large for only 1 person on the school grounds. Lots of parts of town are 10-14 minutes from the school. With the 3-5 minute timeframe identified by the chief, that is too long. So we need more presence on the grounds itself.

2. The "school" in its entirety is just too large for 1 SRO. I think we need 1 at every school but even better would be 2 at each school. But at the same time, fiscally, I realize this is not likely. So I do think exploring options such as arming teachers makes a ton of sense. This has been a hotly debated topic in town but most of the "anti's" on the subject are your typical liberals who think we need to ban guns all together anyway (as if that some how would help anything?!!!). But fortunately this town happens to be #5 in the state in terms of LTC permits- this tells me two things, one that a ton of the town recognizes the need to be armed, and the police chief sees it as a right as well (Ive talked with him a lot about this and hes funny on this as compared to a lot in MA....he said "Will, those people (against LTC etc) haven't read the Constitution, its everyone's RIGHT! This isn't my decision."

So I at least know there is a lot of support for an armed presence and most believe teachers should be part of that. I have read recently about the FASTER program (in Ohio and CO) that trains teachers both in armed training but also medical/1st aid training to help treat wounded (I don't even want to think about FL and the "cost" of the Sheriffs staying outside and then not letting paramedics in....) and I like that approach (I know ALICE also has something similar in the Raider portion of their program).

3. Within the school I would like to see specific things done to protect classrooms. I saw this the other day and thought this could be a positive step: http://dominatesafety.com/ But we also (at least in the HS) have large windows next to every door. I am thinking a metal "storm shutter" could be in place that can be closed securely to cover the window. It could be painted on the inside with white marker paint so as to be a bulletin board when "open". But could be closed as necessary.

Anyway.....I'll shut up. This has been too long a post, so I am sorry. But I do welcome any ideas anyone has about what they have seen in their town, or what they see here that deserves another look. Thanks! :)