School Safety Dis­cus­sion Emo­tional

BOARD AD­DRESSES SE­CU­RITY

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kutter

— 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.”

Prin­ci­pals Speak

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.

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