Board Talks School Safety
PRAIRIE GROVE CONSIDERS WAYS TO BOOST STUDENTS’ SECURITY
PRAIRIE GROVE — In light of the tragic fatal school shootings in Parkland, Fla., Prairie Grove administrators have stepped up discussions for additional security measures to protect students, teachers and others.
“Folks, there have been more public shootings lately, not just at schools, than any I can remember,” Superintendent Allen Williams told School Board members at their Feb. 19 meeting.
A shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14 left 17 students and adults dead, with many others injured.
A former student, Nikolas Cruz, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. Investigators said Cruz used an AR-15 rifle to carry out the shootings. News accounts say the massacre unfolded in less than 10 minutes.
Williams said school officials will take a “pretty hard look” at any threatening or suspicious statements made by students or others or if anyone is accosted at school.
“That’s a ‘no go zone’ as far as things to say,” Williams said. “If you hear that someone has been out of school a few days, that’s probably the case. I’m not going to apologize for it.”
Board member Bart Orr said he received five calls the day after the Florida shooting from concerned parents asking what Prairie Grove is doing for security.
“It’s on everyone’s mind,” Williams said. “It’s a tragic deal.”
He said students and teachers have been asked to be aware of what’s going on around them.
“If someone has targeted or threatened someone, you need to tell someone,” Williams said. “Hopefully our kids have learned
“If someone has targeted or threatened
someone, you need to tell someone. Hopefully our kids have learned that lesson.”
Allen Williams Prairie Grove Superintendent
Williams said he also asked all principals to thoroughly look around their buildings with an eye toward any safety issues that need to be addressed.
The district applied for a grant to hire a second school resource officer but did not receive the grant. Williams said he believes the board needs to decide whether to go ahead and add another SRO, grant or not.
A second resource officer would spend more time at the high school but be available for other schools as needed, Williams said.
The salary for the district’s current SRO is funded 50 percent by the city and 50 percent by the school. Williams proposed the school pay 75 percent of the salary for a second school resource officer.
He said he would talk to city officials about a second school resource officer.
Orr wondered about having resource officers at all schools, if that was a possibility. Williams said that was one idea. Another idea, Williams said, would be to look at having a security guard posted at each school.
Prairie Grove schools have a program in place called ALICE that goes into effect if an active shooter is on a campus. ALICE stands for “Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.”
The program stresses that students and teachers need to be proactive if an active shooter is in the building and to try to escape if possible. If escape is not an option, then do whatever they can to survive.
Prairie Grove will continue to use ALICE, Williams said.
Another security measure is a panic phone app called the RAVE Panic Button. Teachers and other staff have the app on their smart phones. Williams said he did not think the app was still in service but elementary Principal Jonathan Warren recently pushed it inadvertently and within minutes police officers were at the building.
The state Department of Emergency Management signed a contract with Rave Mobile Safety of Framingham, Mass., in 2015 to provide the app for public school employees.
If an emergency comes up, a person can push a specific button on the app to alert 911 about the type of emergency involved. Choices are active shooter, medical, police, fire or other.
When activated, the app sends out text messages to all those in the school who have the app on their phones or are registered with the program.
Williams said he does not know if the state plans to continue to fund the panic app but was interested in calling the company to see what it would cost for Prairie Grove to use it or to see if there are other similar programs out there.
David Kellogg, assistant superintendent, said a vendor had contacted him about presenting his company’s emergency response package. The district already had a meeting on operations scheduled in March and Kellogg said the vendor was invited to attend the meeting.