School Safety Discussion Emotional
BOARD ADDRESSES SECURITY
— In an emotional meeting last week, Farmington school administrators and law enforcement officials talked about what they are doing to ensure student safety and plans to make campuses more secure.
The school safety portion of the Farmington School Board’s March 13 meeting was in response to the fatal school shooting in Florida in February and two recent bomb threats at the middle school.
Parents, teachers, school principals and law enforcement officers attended the meeting, which was moved from the administration building to Lynch Middle School to make room for an expected crowd.
Bryan Law, superintendent of schools, said he realized there was a lot of concern in the community about school safety after hearing from three dads in the district. He said he realized if three dads called him, there probably were at least 40 more in the district with the same concerns.
From that point, he said he and other school officials began looking at what safety measures they could put into effect as soon as possible.
School Safety Measures
The school has added electronic buzz systems to Ledbetter Intermediate and Lynch Middle School. Buzzer systems also will be added to the elementary schools. Visitors will have to push the buzzers to be allowed into the buildings.
Cameras will allow office staff to see who is at the door. The Freshman Academy and Farmington High School already have security systems for visitors to get into the school.
A bullet-resistant film will be installed over glass doors and other large windows, such as the glass wall in the commons area at Lynch Middle School.
Law said the bullet-resistant film “buys us 90 seconds” of solid gunfire before the glass would break out.
He said he realized 90 seconds didn’t seem very long but pointed out “90 seconds can be a lifetime.”
Within 15 seconds, he said office staff could make an announcement to all classes that an active shooter was on campus and students should evacuate. Within 30 seconds, students would be out of the building and running to safety, he said.
The board approved spending $16,400 for the film. The door buzzers cost $3,400 per building, Law said.
Other expenses will be intercoms and additional cameras. Door devices have been added to all doors at the high school to stop someone from getting into a classroom. Those were $70 per door.
Law said he also wants to add large monitors or TVs in school offices so staff can see who is approaching the building.
“We have a lot of needs and a smaller amount of money to meet those needs with,” Law said. “We’re trying to do the best we can.”
Law asked school principals to tell parents what they are doing at their buildings for school safety and Kara Gardenhire, Williams’ principal, became very emotional about the subject.
“I have a child who is very anxious. When you talk about guns, she doesn’t want to go to school,” Gardenhire said. “It’s very scary. We want to keep them safe everyday.”
All principals emphasized student safety as their primary focus and agreed they consider each child like their own. Principals said teachers are trained in active shooter situations and they talk to their students about what to do.
Shannon Cantrell, Folsom principal, for example, said all classroom doors remain locked; greeters are at the front door; teachers have crisis training; video cameras are located throughout the building.
Ledbetter Principal Julia Williams said the goal in an active shooter situation is “to get them out of there and get them out safely.”
Law acknowledged times are challenging for parents and schools.
“We are committed to taking care of your kids,” Law said, tearing up. “It’s a passionate subject for us.”
Mental Health Important
Jennifer Coldiron, a representative with Ozark Guidance Center, briefly spoke and encouraged everyone to consider the other side of the coin along with school security: mental illness.
“Social and emotional learning is the question we also need to be asking,” Coldiron said, noting children need to learn how to handle rejection without bottling up their emotions and without turning to violent measures.
“We want them to learn how to turn any angry thought into a healthy behavior,” she said.
Coldiron said Farmington has been proactive with emotional wellness and she’s been in the schools to discuss handling trauma in a classroom.
Board President Jeff Oxford encouraged parent involvement and encouraged parents to suggest ideas they may have about school safety.
The meeting opened with Lt. Chad Parrish with Farmington Police Department and John Luther, director of county’s emergency management office, talking about school safety from a law enforcement perspective.
Farmington police use a strategy called A.L.I.C.E., Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, for active shooter situations. This strategy gives teachers and students guidance on what to do based on what’s going on within a school.