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Prepared for the Worst: Consultant Examines Shorewood Schools Safety

Following a walk-through of district schools earlier this week by a expert in the field of school safety, school officials heard a list of recommendations on boosting the safety and security of their buildings.

School officials weren’t scheduled to do their annual review of safety and security on district campuses until later this school year, but given the recent horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary, Superintendent Martin Lexmond said it is chief they look at the district’s protocols sooner rather than later.

Tuesday night, Dennis Lewis, consultant and co-founder of Edu-Safe, presented his findings to Shorewood officials after he walked through district schools earlier this week. Edu-Safe is an advisory and training organization established to assist school administrators and others with the task of providing safe schools.

Lewis said the scope of his work was fairly narrow, as he only spent two days in the district, but it focused on how prepared the district is for "extreme acts of violence," such as an active shooter on a district campus. 

Security, safety strengths within Shorewood, but room for improvement

During Lewis' inspection, he said he found some security strengths within the district like locked doors at main entrances, staff members that had a methodically-detailed plan of action in emergency scenarios, a double-gated main entrance at Shorewood Intermediate School and a campus supervisor at the high school devoted to being available to students and building relationships, so students know they have an adult they can talk to.

Having someone like a campus supervisor is critical in preventing acts of violence in schools, he said, as that individual is likely to pick up communication that something is wrong. 

But he also outlined steps the district could take to improve security and safety in Shorewood, Lewis said.  

Security protocols should be expanded to include plan for unique areas on school campuses like the high school auditorium, where hundreds of people could be on hand for a performance or concert, or the arena, where a large group could be watching a sporting event.

"The typical sheltering plans you have in place won't function well, because they are based on a typical school day with children in nice little pods spread throughout the building," he said.

Floor plans for district buildings should be provided to police, which Lewis said, hasn't been done yet. Having the building layout is vital to police during a situation. He added room numbers should be added to the outside of every window on each school so it can be visible from the outside.

Furthermore, the open campus lunch at the high school is a concern. Students are scattered throughout the school and it would prove difficult to get them all to safety during an emergency. Lewis recommended the high school provide designated areas for students to eat lunch. 

Lewis also added officials should look into implementing a text alert system, which could alert students to an emergency or situation unfolding at the high school. 

"It's a way of alerting kids so that they don't walk into danger, if they are coming back on campus, or are in between buildings and simply need to get further off campus," Lewis said. 

When the board asked what the cost of some of these recommendations might cost, Lewis said he didn't have numbers, but many of the improvements have little to no cost associated with them. Additionally, there might be federal grants available soon to help with funding of safety and security improvements. 

A balancing act

With that said, there is no way to absolutely prevent extreme acts of violence in schools, but putting into place protocols that will delay and impede an assailant entering a campus is your best option, and will give law enforcement more time to arrive before an incident escalates, Lewis said. 

"Generally speaking, there will be a sufficient number in the community, close to half, that will believe you're always doing too much, and there will be an equal number in the community that believe you are doing too little," he said. "It really is a balancing act to maintain a educational climate that is fully conducive to learning, while at the same time provide enough safety and security so that learning can take place."

The Donny Show February 15, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Great idea Mike. You still need multiple ARMED guards or the security folks will just be the first victims. No way that is allowed in Shorewood.
David Tatarowicz February 15, 2013 at 03:57 PM
@Nancy You are proving my point that only guns on the premises with multiple trained and vetted school staff throughout the school can prevent or lessen a tragedy. Police arriving in Col 60 seconds later was too late -- and that is only when they get to the scene, not into the building, finding the shooter and engaging him. We can look at all the studies and try to deal with dangerous or potentially dangerous folks before others die. But as they say -- when you are to you butt in alligators --- you better keep shooting them until you have time to drain the swamp. Comments by others about things like cameras are nice -- and they do not even have to be onsite --- there could be a central facility for perhaps all northshore schools --- but DS is correct, what do you do with that information if you don't have boots on the ground to respond? And all it takes is an overcoat to conceal an AR15 and 4 clips of 30 rounds each --- cameras will not stop their entry, but with placement throughout the school, at least there would be information as to where the shooter is.
David Tatarowicz February 15, 2013 at 04:00 PM
It would have been nice if the school board and the superintendent had included the Shorewood Police in this audit --- we already spend a lot of money on our police force, and they are very good at their jobs and have information that would be useful for any audit, and they would welcome an opportunity to learn more and interact with a professional in the field.
CowDung February 15, 2013 at 04:23 PM
That is an excellent point. I would have thought that having local law enforcement involved in this would be a 'no-brainer'...
David Tatarowicz February 16, 2013 at 04:30 PM
@CD A very apt description indeed "no brainer"

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