Increasing school, student safety

Increased student safety is very much on the minds of the more than 40 Minnesota school leaders who responded to a recent survey.

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

Many districts have made changes to their buildings and changes in procedures.

Here’s what several area school leaders told me.

Asked what changes the district had made after the tragic school shooting last year in Sandy Hook, Conn., Mary Olson, director of communication and public relations for the Anoka-Hennepin District, wrote, “In short, we are focusing on our elementary schools this year because we feel they have the greatest need.

“Our middle and high schools have had security cameras for some time and our high schools also have guards.

“At the elementary level we are modifying the main entrance to each building so that visitors cannot get into a building without first being checked.

“They will enter a locked vestibule area.

“After a school secretary ensures the visitor has a legitimate reason to be in the building (picking up a child, eating lunch with their children or grandchildren, volunteering, observing in class, etc.), he or she will ‘buzz’ the visitor in.”

“We have also installed scanners to read driver’s licenses and print name badges for visitors to wear.

“These also record who has entered and at what time. It’s a big improvement over the paper log,” Olson wrote.

Mark Bonine, Brooklyn Center superintendent, wrote, “Secured entries: The high school has all visitors coming in through the main office to check in during the school day.

“The elementary school has a person at the main entrance during school hours to greet any visitors and direct them appropriately, ensuring no ‘unauthorized’ entrances.

“There has been additional office staff reorganization at the elementary school to ensure an ongoing presence/monitoring of the front entrance throughout the school day.

“Armed intruder training: The Brooklyn Center Police Department conducted a training on site this summer providing an opportunity for our staff to participate.

“Ongoing: Revitalizing and re-communicating our emergency planning and emergency response procedures,” Bonine wrote.

Peggy Flathmann, Fridley superintendent, told me, “The Sandy Hook school tragedy is a reminder to all of us to be ever vigilant.

“While we have not made any major changes, our district’s safety committee, made up of staff, administrators and local law enforcement, continues to meet regularly to review and evaluate safety procedures that are in place in each of our buildings to maximize student and staff safety.”

Shannon Peterson, of Lakes International Charter in Forest Lake, explained, “School security remains a cornerstone of staff training, for the unlikely case of someone intent on harm entering our school.

“Entrance security, hallway cameras and state-mandated safety drills continue to be key in our efforts to maintain a safe environment for learning and working.

“School security is a strong consideration in the planning process for our second campus.

“We take all these precautions despite the fact that ‘schools … are still the safest place for children in this country,’ according to Wendy Regoeczi, the director of criminology research at Cleveland State University.

“Children are far less likely to be injured or killed at school than they are almost anywhere else.’”

It’s clear these and other leaders take security seriously.

That’s very good news for students, educators and families.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school teacher and administrator, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome, joe@centerforschoolchange.org.

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