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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."

Karen Wicklund February 14, 2013 at 09:29 AM
Floor plan to police, room numbers visible outside, a plan for assemblies, student text message alerts . . . good, sound ideas. i'm glad to hear them.
N. Peske February 14, 2013 at 01:31 PM
The small risk of an attack is not reason to end open lunch. Students need time in nature and to be out in the sun--there's a lot of research on nature's effect on the body but particularly cortisol levels. Stressing out students is not conducive to psychological well-being and that matters. In considering text message alerts, are students allowed to have their phones on and with them in classrooms? I don't think so. Is that being considered? Also, while it's important to look at this piece--the buildings, the training of police officers and staff--let's not forget the psychological/social piece. We do need to look at how we are supporting troubled teen boys. That conversation needs to take place as well.
The Donny Show February 14, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Peske, lets be honest. Unless things have changed since the mid 90s open lunch is often used to get drunk, get high, have relations, etc. Stressing kids out? Come on. There is no evidene that kids are stressed out by closed lunch. You cannot just make crap up to support your point.
Mike February 14, 2013 at 03:07 PM
We never had open lunch, and we weren't ever stressed out about it. Let's not be silly, kids still have plenty of opportunity to be outside, if they can't sneak out for a half hour at lunch every day to do whatever it is kids do these days, I think they'll be just fine.
CowDung February 14, 2013 at 03:15 PM
I do think that the 'nature's effects' argument is a bit of a stretch for justifying open lunch. Personally, I don't see the open lunch as a security issue. Having a scattering of kids about the campus (or at the eating places near the campus) would seem to be better than having them all concentrated in one area.
Wendy Pribbanow February 14, 2013 at 03:28 PM
We never had "open-lunch" either. When I attended SHS we had 2 choices of where we could eat - either the Youth Center (in the basement of the Arena building) or the Cafeteria (in the basement of the Auditorium building). Most of us ate in the YC. I don't think we felt "stressed-out" because we didn't leave campus for lunch. Kids are different now.
Adam W. McCoy (Editor) February 14, 2013 at 03:34 PM
N. Peske, to answer your question about use of cell phones on campus. The way it was explained during the School Board meeting was cell phones aren't allowed in class but when students are on their lunch period, or walking to their next class, they can pull them out, grab them from their lockers. While students are in class, the assumption is they would be notified by their teacher of an emergency, but when they are out and about, text alerts would serve as a means of notifying them of unfolding events.
Sunrocket February 14, 2013 at 06:38 PM
I did attend a school with an open campus - 30 years ago. We only had 1/2 hour so there wasn't a whole lot you could do. Sometimes I was stressed out sometimes I wasn't but neither had anything to do with having an open campus. It was teenaged angst and all that goes with it. If kids today are more stressed out it is their parents and other authority figures that are doing it because quite frankly, kids have it better today than ever so that crap of a statement does not work. Stress is sitting in the library day after day looking through reference books because you don't have the internet to look something up. Stress is getting to your after school job and still getting your homework done. There were just as much drugs, alcohol, single parents, divorced parents and yada yada yada back then as there is now. So if kids are stressed out today it is because the are rushing to get to a soccer game or to their mommy or dadd'y's car for them to pick them up.
David Tatarowicz February 14, 2013 at 06:47 PM
This audit and report is typical "feel good" nonsense. The comments here about Open Lunch is just an opportunity for kids to drink, do dope and have sex are less than helpful. We need to face Reality --- we would never be having this discussion if it were not for the Active Shooter Phenomena --- under almost any other scenario, our police and fire departments are extremely capable. In an Active Shooter circumstance -- it does not matter how fast the police can get to the scene -- it will be too late. Officer Murphy was at the Sikh Temple almost instantaneously, yet six people were dead and he was shot 15 times himself --- Murphy is the definition of Hero !!! Forget locked doors --- police go through them like butter at drug houses -- false sense of security. Unless an armed officer is in the building and close to the shooter, there will be many dead children --- that is an un-contestable fact born out many too many times recently. In the best of circumstances, the first armed officers would need at least two minutes to be face to face with the shooter --- by then it far too late. In Israel when they had a mass school shooting they put trained and armed personnel in the schools -- no more shootings! I propose volunteer school staff, vetted and trained by SPD --- with magnum revolvers in lock boxes that they can access, and addtionally some with concealed carry. I do not mean to be trite -- but anything less is taking a knife to a gun fight.
The Donny Show February 14, 2013 at 07:27 PM
The comment about open lunch was to show how silly Peske was.
Sunrocket February 14, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Dave - yes they were in response to N Peske - not the article, but the truth is the truth. Kids have being drinking, doing drugs and having sex on their lunch hour for probably 70+ years, (perhaps not the drug part) regardless of an open campus so get off your soap box (for once). You can't keep kids under a bubble, especially a campus like Shorewood's that is in many different buildings so what plan would work? Things can happen any where any time so the best advice is to live your life as best you can.
The Donny Show February 14, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Dave, these comments have to be made in jest, right? You think ultra-liberal Shorewood panzies are going to want guns IN SCHOOL? They want all guns banned. While I tend to agree with you, the North Shore Nancies will soil themselves even thinking about this. Little Billy will be in a school where he could see a gun? Oh the humanity!
Cricket February 14, 2013 at 07:49 PM
I agree with Peske that the chances are slim that anything would happen at Shorewood or other area schools but to justify open campus to get fresh air and sunshine? Really? I too had open campus but it really isn't necessary. How much time does one have to either go home or somewhere for lunch? I understand Shorewood doesn't really have a cafeteria per se? If they get out of school at 3ish, isn't that time for nature and sunshine? Aren't they getting that with all the outdoor activities? Weekends? Kids today are in school just as much as they were in the 1930's. Of course back then they came home and plowed the back 40 or helped run the family business or did a paper route or bagged groceries, all legitimate reasons for being overschedule, unlike today's youth that aren't even afforded the time to be by themselves and have their own thoughts - big reasons for being under stress.
N. Peske February 14, 2013 at 08:23 PM
It's interesting that some people assume I'm making up the research about nature's effects (much of which is from Europe and Japan, so it doesn't get much press in America--and doesn't necessarily show up in PubMed, Google Scholar, or even Sciencedaily dot com). Check The Nature Principle by Richard Louv (author of Last Child in the Woods) and Your Brain on Nature by Selhub and Logan. Both books, from major publishers, feature plenty of footnotes for skeptics to chomp on when they aren't automatically dismissing an idea they're unfamiliar with simply because it's new to them. Adam, I suspected the cell phone policy is as you described. Thus, a text message alert has its limitations when classes are in session. Many of the school shootings shortly after classes began in the morning and were in session. That was something I felt was worth noting... do we need to look at that policy again and allow cell phones and tablets in class under certain circumstances given the potential for cheating and distraction? And which students are allowed to have them? Should teachers have them on in case of a text alert?
N. Peske February 14, 2013 at 08:26 PM
Nature alleviates stress and always has. Nature time is not the only thing that lowers cortisol, of course, but given how stressed out kids are these days, I think eliminating nature time has consequences that need to be considered--and particularly for kids prone to anxiety (such as students with anxiety disorders, autism, sensory issues, etc.) There is some research on nature time and ADHD, too, that matches up with research on nature time improving focus. And yes, sitting near a tree or on the lawn under the sky counts. You don't have to be deep in a forest.
CowDung February 14, 2013 at 08:27 PM
No, we aren't doubting the research, we are doubting that the few minutes a day the students might get during lunchtime is really going to have a significant impact one way or the other.
N. Peske February 14, 2013 at 08:30 PM
Interesting observations but I had very different experiences 30 years ago. For example, I found it relaxing to research using encyclopedias and browsing them was relaxing, whereas trying to research using the Internet given all the caveats about which sites are verboten can be stressful. The kids I knew who were at risk because of high stress home lives talked about nature time being a huge stressbuster, whether it was a a church retreat or scout weekend in nature, walking by the lake or river, or being under a tree. Research now shows they weren't imagining nature's effects on the body and nervous system. Moreover, there are myriad reasons why kids today are more stressed out, from increased rates of autism and sensory issues (first identified in 1970), high pressures to get into college and a lack of vocational training in high school for kids who aren't cut out for a liberal arts degree, an inflammatory diet filled with toxins...the list goes on and on. Every piece needs to be considered. I worry about setting policies that ignore research on stress and are overreactions to exceedingly rare events.
N. Peske February 14, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Excellent points, Dave. And let's not forget the toe-to-head bulletproof clothing (which can be purchased no-questions-asked by anyone, something not discussed in our gun control and ammunition control arguments). Except I vehemently disagree on guns in the schools. I think that's a horrendously bad idea. If you really want teachers trained for battle, hire martial arts experts. Actually, to be serious (I don't want teachers having to become triple black belts in karate), let's arm the school teams with school psychologists, a functional national mental health care system that doesn't involve pharmaceuticals as a first and only resort for treating anxiety and depression, character ed programs that work, Wraparound teams, and educated, active, empowered parents who know how to help their children who have mental health issues function well in a school environment. Meanwhile, we might make a dent in the self-medication that now includes not just marijuana and alcohol but prescription drugs (including Ritalin), street drugs, and the high obtained by purging (part of bulimia) and self-mutilation (cutting).
Adam W. McCoy (Editor) February 14, 2013 at 08:38 PM
@The Donny Show, let's please avoid name-calling and stick to having a constructive conversation.
David Tatarowicz February 14, 2013 at 09:06 PM
@SR Wow -- you are totally confused about the discussion here --- I more than agree that kids have been doing sex, drugs, alcohol and rock and roll since I was in HS -- and they were doing it at SHS back then and before then and still are now. I never even went to SHS but I know about how the tunnels were the place the drink back then ---- does anyone know if that is the main use of them now. The point I was making is that this topic has NOTHING to do with open lunch, what kids do, or who does or doesn't have a cell phone. I believe this topic has to do with Dead Kids ---- and maybe that is just too much for most people to deal with --- and maybe that is why everything under the sun that will not stop or deter an active shooter is being discussed, and not the real issue.
David Tatarowicz February 14, 2013 at 09:12 PM
@Nancy I have a lot of respect for your opinions and know you are very well read and are very well versed in all those issues you are bringing up about kids, stress, etc. But that is all totally aside from the point that none of that is going to help when an Active Shooter is killing students like fish in a barrel. If guns are a bad idea, then why do our cops have them? They have them because sometimes you have to kill to stop killing. There are Evil People and there are Sick People --- and it makes no difference which one it is when they are pulling a trigger. We need to protect our kids, our teachers, our staff --- and unfortunately, sometimes the only way to do it, is with a gun.
Sunrocket February 14, 2013 at 11:24 PM
Dave - I was unaware that one could only comment on what was strictly in the article. If that's the case, half the comments on any article anywhere need to be thrown out. I personally do not know SHS so I don't now of tunnels and such. What I do know is that SHS seems to be a relatively small campus in comparison to many others and if the worst happened, are text messages or emails going to come in time? Probably not - do they still have public address systems in schools? I don't honestly know. Since we were taking a walk back in time I am old enough to remember nuclear fall out shelters and duck and cover drills. Those were some scary stressed out times. I have nothing against nature, I'm all for it actually and get out and enjoy it as much as I can but let's be realistic here because as I read all of these comments I think I am being punked but some of comments coming from Nancy and you and have had to reread them several times. No one wants dead kids but I am the first to admit how to solve all of this is way over my head but the one thing I could comment on was the open lunch hour. Wow yourself.
N. Peske February 15, 2013 at 02:16 PM
Guns in schools are a bad idea because as you point out, the victims in these shootings are dead before anyone has a chance to react. The police were at the Aurora theater within sixty seconds I believe--too late to do anything. The killers are suicidal, and often dressed head-to-toe in bulletproof clothing. The element of surprise is great enough for them to accomplish their destruction before anyone can even get to a gun or have any hope of tackling them. Having a loaded gun on school premises with students whose executive function is underdeveloped is a recipe for a horrific accident. The concept of the hero in the white hat taking down the bad guy persists in the American psyche despite the evidence that it just doesn't happen the way one fantasizes it will. We have to get beyond abstract good guy fantasies into the reality of how these situations unfold--and WHY they happen. The piece we're not looking at is what propels mentally unstable men (aside from the one 15 year-old-girl in the 1980s who attacked a school, the shooters are male) to reach a breaking point. Addressing that needs to be done before we overreact and ban open lunch which offers benefits for all students including, ironically, reducing stress levels. I would also like to see a conversation about how many of these male shooters are on pharmaceuticals that affect brain chemistry.
CowDung February 15, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Don't we already have schools with armed guards in them? I believe Patzfahl mentioned that Greendale has one. Have we had any 'horrific accidents' because of it? Having an armed guard in the building, along with security cameras should take away the element of surprise and minimize the casualties suffered in the event of an attack. I agree that we need to look at the causes of the shootings. Could the same policy/curriculum/methodology changes that seem to be causing boys to struggle and fall behind while girls move ahead be playing a part in this?
Mike February 15, 2013 at 02:50 PM
We've reached a point where every school needs to have a security room that is staffed at all times when students are on the premises. There needs to be a camera at every entrance with its feed going into the security room. If any suspicious activity takes place the person in this room radios to a security guard who immediately investigates, no questions asked. All this talk about guns vs no guns, better mental health treatments, it's all well and good and everyone can have their opinion, but the fact of the matter is, no matter what our government enacts, no matter how many mental health screenings and facilities we have, these things won't and can't stop all tragedies from occurring. There will always be crazy, evil people who either don't want help, don't seek help, or slip through the cracks of whatever systems we have in 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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