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Safety in schools: Local districts addressing concerns

Friday, December 21, 2012

(Photo)
The U.S. and Missouri flags remain at half-staff Thursday at the main entrance of Jackson High School in Jackson. The flag honored the victims of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., from Dec. 14 to 18, and will honor the memory of U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye through today.
(Fred Lynch) [Order this photo]
In the wake of the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., locals are likely asking more questions about the safety of children in their schools.

Brenda Wood, who has a granddaughter attending Jackson High School, posed a question to the school's staff on the day of the tragedy.

"The shooting in Connecticut had been on TV, and it was fresh on my mind," said Wood of Jackson. "I went to the high school to deliver some items to my granddaughter, and I was able to walk in the front door without having to wait for someone to unlock it. I thought it should have been locked."

Wood says she asked a secretary why the door was unlocked.

"It's always that way," the secretary reportedly replied.

(Photo)
Chris Logsdon stands sentry Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 at the entrance of Blanchard Elementary School.
(Fred Lynch)
In what will come as a relief to Wood and others, the days of front doors being unlocked at Jackson High School and at other schools in the Jackson School District are coming to an end.

"Changes are coming," said Wade Bartels, chief financial officer and security coordinator for the Jackson School District. "We're looking to install a buzzer system with monitors at the front doors in all of the Jackson schools. The system will be paid for out of the district's general fund, and we think it will be money well spent in improving security."

A buzzer system couldn't have stopped an event like the one in Connecticut. The shooter busted out glass to gain entrance into the school. But buzzers and other security measures do allow schools to make sure that, at the least, entrances and exits are more secure.

No firm date has been set for implementation, but Bartels said that's only because the security company chosen to install the buzzer system is reviewing data.

"We'll have to wait for the company to get back to us with recommendations," he said. "Once we hear back from them, we'll go from there."

While front doors are currently unlocked in the Jackson public schools, other doors in the buildings are secured to bar entry throughout the day. Each school also has surveillance cameras that display images inside a school building. There also is an armed school-resource officer who visits a different Jackson school each day.

"We're evaluating how to add more resource officers," Bartels said. "It's part of our plan of continuous improvement. To that end, we've had another security firm examine our safety procedures for the last two years, and our staff is trained to handle contingencies. For example, if there is a threat directed at a school it goes on 'lockdown' status; all doors and windows are locked, and nobody gets in or out. The Jackson police are notified, also, and they'll stay at the school until the crisis is over."

Bartels said there are other safety procedures in place, but he does not want to make them known.

"We don't want to give anything away," he said.

When asked about a movement in the Missouri Legislature to allow administrators and teachers to be granted permits to carry concealed weapons, Bartels said he wasn't sure about the idea.

Cape security

Neil Glass, assistant superintendent for administrative services of the Cape Girardeau School District, is taking a wait-and-see approach.

"Guns in schools are a polarizing issue, to say the least. I think we'll need more time to consider that one."

He said a buzzer system for front doors already is in place in most of the district's schools.

"Right now, seven out of the 10 schools in the Cape school district have a buzzer system at the front door," Glass said. "We're looking into ways for all of them to have the system. The safety of our students is always the highest priority."

Glass said the Cape Girardeau schools have a "fantastic" surveillance system to detect problems on school property, and the district employs three armed resource officers who cover all of the schools.

"We also have safety procedures such as the lockdown," he said. "If there's a threat made at one of the schools, that school is locked and nobody gets in. It's something we take very seriously."

Like Bartels, Glass wanted to keep other emergency plans confidential.

"That's something we feel is best kept private," he said.

Dr. James Welker, superintendent of the Cape Girardeau schools, said his district will continue to review safety procedures.

"There's always room for improvement," Welker said. "I do believe we have proper plans in place for emergencies that may come up. Our staff is well trained."

The Southeast Missourian attempted to ask teachers in the Cape Girardeau district their thoughts about school safety in the wake of the tragedy in Connecticut but was informed that all questions relating to the safety of its schools had to be referred to the superintendent.

"I endorsed that idea," Welker said. "I felt there should be uniform information coming from the district about our security procedures. I also felt our teachers needed to be getting on with teaching and not having to answer questions."

Rebecca Wright, a guidance counselor at Jefferson Elementary School with two children attending the school, said she had permission to speak on the issue.

"As a parent, I'd welcome any new safety measures," she said. "But I trust the district to keep my children safe. We have a buzzer system at our front door, and we also have security cameras in place. I'm glad all of that is there."

In her role as a counselor, Wright doesn't want to see her school feel like a prison.

"It's a public school. We want to foster relationships among students and not try to educate them in an environment that isn't healthy for their well being. I know security is an overriding factor, but a happy medium would be nice," Wright said.

Lending a hand

At least one parent in Cape Girardeau has decided to make school safety a personal issue.

Chris Logsdon, a retired U.S. Army sergeant, has posted himself at the front door of Blanchard Elementary School where his three children attend.

"I was touched by the mass shooting last week," Logsdon said. "I contacted [the principal], Dr. [Barbara] Kohlfeld, to see if it was OK for me to guard the door, and she said it was OK. I want to be able to help protect my children and those of others. I'll be back tomorrow and after the Christmas break until something is done about keeping our kids safe."

Perryville concerns

Security concerns heightened Thursday in the Perryville School District, after a posting on Facebook said unnamed students planned to bring guns to school today.

Superintendent Kevin Dunn said the rumors have no foundation.

"There's been no credible evidence presented that something will happen [today]," Dunn said. "It turned out the Facebook writings were done by an adult somewhere and it spread nationwide. But we took steps of involving law enforcement and making parents known about the rumors anyway."

Perryville police will be patrolling the district today.

"We're going to be out just in case," said police chief Keith Tarrillion. "Even if it's rumor, it's something we'll be keeping our eye on."

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent addresses:

326 College St., Perryville, Mo.

520 S. Minnesota St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

301 N. Clark St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

614 E. Adams St., Jackson, Mo.


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I have learned from the Jackson school district that "some" of the classroom doors have locks and "some" of the teachers lock those doors. I think that EVERY classroom should have a lock...that it should be easy and quick to lock from the inside (i.e. NOT a key lock so no fumbling during an emergency by a panicked teacher)....and yes, even though that Sandy Hook shooter wasn't stopped by a buzzer he was slowed down a bit and that should have given the office staff an extra moment to push an alarm to warn the rest of the school to lock down.

-- Posted by Catbert on Fri, Dec 21, 2012, at 7:30 AM

Why not also include in the alarm system that when the button is pushed it goes straight to the police like I have at work? I'm also for HIRING armed veterans, installing metal detectors and anything else that will help secure our school kids. I'd rather be paying taxes to make our schools safe right now instead of paying to build more for sports.

-- Posted by Topo_Gigio on Fri, Dec 21, 2012, at 8:25 AM

This will not sit well with some, but if you want to stop these cowardly acts, you will need an armed presence in schools. I don't believe teachers and staff should be required to be armed, however, if they are trained and wish to carry a concealed firearm, they should be allowed.

Some tax money should be used to pay for a law enforcement presence in every school.

The cowards committing these acts of murder, intentionally choose targets which they know are unarmed. Gun free school zones, churches, shopping malls, ect.

Facts have shown that when confronted by law enforcement, the incident ends adbruptly. Either by suicide, arrest or surrender.

Facts also prove that when a mass shooting incident ends after waiting for help to arrive, the average number of victims is 25.

However, when an armed citizen intervenes, the average number of deaths is 2.5

These cowards only choose soft targets.

The principal at Sandy Hook courageously attempted to stop the shooter when he first began his rampage. She gave her life trying to save those children. If she or a staff member had been armed, the shooter most likely would not have caused near as many casualties.

If there was a visible armed presence such as a police officer, the incident most likely would have never occurred.

-- Posted by Right Minded on Fri, Dec 21, 2012, at 8:47 AM

Right Minded- You're crazy. I'm guessing you got your numbers from some group/organization that has a political agenda.

Did the Hero-Dad that volunteered to stand guard at the door have to pass a background check, since he is now a de-facto school employee?

-- Posted by Lippy Radeck on Fri, Dec 21, 2012, at 10:10 AM

I am personally for letting teachers carry, especially if they take some type of class geared toward the setting they are in. That being said, the liberals will NEVER go for it. Has anyone thought about tasers or pepper spray to help disable the CRIMINAL until help arrives. Hiding and locking doors will never stop these people.

-- Posted by dhinkle57 on Fri, Dec 21, 2012, at 10:32 AM

@ Lippy Radeck.

Those statistics came from FBI Violent Crime Statistics. I'm not sure of their political agenda.

The fact is, wolves will kill sheep as long as sheep are helpless. The answer is not to disarm the sheep dogs who protect the sheep!!!

Go ahead and keep your head buried in the sand. I said that my ideas would not sit well with others. What would you suggest instead? Offering the psychopaths a hug and a flower?

-- Posted by Right Minded on Fri, Dec 21, 2012, at 10:40 AM

Interesting. Do you have a link or source information for your statistics?

I'm for armed police officers in every school. That is quite a bit different than having a loaded gun in every classroom.

-- Posted by Lippy Radeck on Fri, Dec 21, 2012, at 11:54 AM

Just wondering, now that Blanchard Elementary has a de facto employee, did the district bother to do a background check on this person?

-- Posted by tobedetermined on Fri, Dec 21, 2012, at 1:48 PM

Change in America is here! Guard our kids at all costs!! Parents get involved and take responsibility of guarding our young ones.

-- Posted by vietnamvet on Sat, Dec 22, 2012, at 4:13 AM

"wait and see" REALLY!!!

-- Posted by whyowhy on Sat, Dec 22, 2012, at 7:36 AM

Still waiting for that link, Right Minded...

-- Posted by Lippy Radeck on Sat, Dec 22, 2012, at 1:39 PM

@ Lippy Radeck

First of all, if you would turn off NPR and do your own research, you would find plenty of links proving my statements. I do not feel that I owe you any proof but since you think I am "Crazy", I will provide you with a link. After checking the facts yourself, I will accept your apology!!!

http://www.examiner.com/article/analyzin...

-- Posted by Right Minded on Sat, Dec 22, 2012, at 8:15 PM

Still waiting for that apology Lippy

-- Posted by Right Minded on Sun, Dec 23, 2012, at 9:39 AM


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In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, parents and educators are wondering just how safe their children are at school. Opinions vary, as do ideas about how to make schools safer. The Southeast Missourian has created a forum to encourage website users to speak freely about their concerns for safety, and to give ideas to improve the situation. Go to www.semissourian.com/schoolsafetyforum to take part, or leave a Facebook comment on our link to today's school-safety story. To leave a comment within the forum, you must be registered.
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