School safety and security has been a hot topic of discussion since the December 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Since the incident, a few e-mails and phone calls have been received regarding district safety and security measures.
All school districts in the state are required to have plans in place with a process for managing potential violent crisis situations - everything from natural disasters to shootings. ISD 88 has a detailed safety plan that outlines procedures for a variety of emergency situations. The safety plan is reviewed periodically for changes that can be implemented to ensure the safety of students and staff.
While safety and security are of the highest priority, it is next to impossible to protect everyone in 100 percent of the possible situations. Having said that, several safety and security procedures have been implemented in recent years by ISD 88. Those include: (a) A partnership with the New Ulm Police Department to provide a full time School Resource Officer, (b) Limiting access to school buildings to one or two doors before the school begins each day and only one door once the school day has started, (c) Installation of security cameras in entrance areas of each building, (d) Conducting regular lockdown drills in each school building, (e) Requiring visitors to sign in to each building and wear a visitor badge if they move about a building, (f) Requiring all employees to wear an identification badge, (g) Providing card access to employees that need them, (h) Implementation of a district-wide Safety Committee.
Even though the district has implemented several safety/security procedures in the past, additional improvements will be considered in the future. Future considerations include: (a) Installation of lockdown strobe lights in selected areas of the building, (b) Redesign of building entry areas to increase visibility for office staff of visitors entering the building, (c) Consideration of installing bullet proof glass in entry areas.
Ideas suggested in the previous paragraph are related to facility modifications. Granted, each idea has a financial cost associated with it. School districts have financial limitations which will require difficult decisions to be made as to expenditure priorities.
Overlooked in most safety/security discussions is the impact of social issues. Schools are buildings for children to learn, play and socialize. Several significant discussions and decisions about such topics as gun control, mental illness, video game violence are but a few societal discussions that need to be considered as we look toward increased school safety/security modifications.