The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut stole 26 lives and again opened the door on conversations about gun control and mental health.
But another topic that has emerged is security in schools, and whether we are doing enough to keep children safe. Following the shooting, the National Rifle Association advocated arming teachers.
Both Whitnall Superintendent Dr. Lowell Holtz and Greenfield Superintendent Conrad Farner told Greenfield Patch shortly after the Sandy Hook that safety is a top concern at all of their schools.
"We do everything that we can do,” Holtz said at the time. “Everybody is aware of the procedures were supposed to follow. Even if we had an armed police officer, that might not prevent it. They said the guy came in with a bullet-proof vest and assault rifles; it would be hard to stop."
Said Farner: "We continually look at our practices, procedures and facilities and consider ideas and options to stay as safe and secure as we can be."
Patch surveyed Milwaukee area school districts on their schools' security practices. The 16 districts that responded to the survey are: Cudahy, Nicolet High School, Glendale-River Hills/Mapledale-Indian Hill, Muskego-Norway, Greendale, Shorewood, Oak Creek-Franklin, Menomonee Falls, Mequon-Theinsville, Racine Unified School District, Whitefish Bay, Whitnall School District, Port Washington-Saukville School District, Elmbrook School District, the School District of Waukesha and Franklin School District.
Greenfield School District did not respond to the survey.
Of the 16 that did, seven said they had some sort of security staff at the school, ranging in description from supervisory aids to liaison officers and district employees serving as security aids. At Shorewood High, campus security is available.
Closed-circuit TV monitoring systems are already in place in 14 districts. The Menomonee Falls School District was the only one who responded that the district does not have closed circuit monitoring, but said they are nailing down a final price before installing a system. Waukesha did not respond to that question.
All districts said they participate in regular lockdown drills with their students, and most lock all doors to the school during class hours; some districts said a main entrance is often left unlocked.
Wisconsin has no official guidelines for security in schools, said Peter Pochowski, executive director of the Wisconsin School Safety Coordinators Association, but law requires they have a crisis plan in place and that they perform at least two emergency drills each year.
Pochowski said some districts seem to feel they don't need to be prepared, because they don't think something like the Sandy Hook shooting could happen.
"The first thing is to understand that school-type shooting incidents can happen anywhere," he said.
He recommends districts create crisis management teams that work together to develop the crisis plan and prioritize security needs.
"It's simple but not easy," he said.
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