A healthy number of parents turned out for the Feb. 5 meeting at Avon High School to discuss safety in Avon schools. The open forum gave those in attendance the opportunity to ask questions.
“Are we doing enough? Are we not doing enough,” Superintendent of Schools Michael Laub, asked. Laub, who has been superintendent for seven months said he realized immediately there were good safety procedure in place. He credited, in part, Principal Kristina Dobos-Buller with working with police about procedures.
Laub noted there were “a lot of different opinions on what is safety,” and the audience agrees.
Audience suggestions included armed guards at the entryway of buildings, armed guards in schools and cameras.
“None of those ideas are horrible ideas,” he said. “Our goal no. 1, safety, is important to us.”
After the Newtown incident he said he received correspondence from a number of community members about safety and decided to hold the forum.
Laub said neither he, high school Principal Kristina Dobos-Buller, Avon Middle School Principal Craig Koehler or police personnel, including Chief Richard Bosley, were there to discuss safety plans.
“That’s not public information,” Laub said.
Dobos-Buller said police frequently do walk-throughs of the school when they are not patrolling the streets.
Police do walk-throughs all the time, Buller said.
“Our procedures change several times a year,” Buller said, noting that some procedures change after shootings such as Newtown and procedures are reviewed.
Children as “sitting ducks”
One parent asked about how wise it was having children sitting in the corner of a room for 5 minutes before a killer arrives, making them “sitting ducks.”
“Have barricading, fleeing been discussed?” the parent asked.
“We’ve studied Columbine, Virginia Tech, and each time, said “how can we improve,” Dobos-Buller said. She said different scenarios have been discussed and just “sitting there” is no longer advised.
The Avon Lake School District has instituted the “ALICE” program throughout the district.
Laub said some people support ALICE and some don’t. ALICE stands for Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate and includes suggestions such as throwing items and distracting the shooter. The program has received mixed reviews.
Some parents supported a proactive approach if an intruder entered the school.
Laub said the district needed to be both proactive and reactive.
“The question we have is what level of proactive and reactive are we comfortable with?” Laub said. “There is nothing we can do that is going to be 100 percent proactive is someone (is determined) to do evil.”
Armed guard, bus safety
The idea of using armed guards and the safety of children on buses when the arrive were also brought up.
“People have said to me they want armed guards in the school and I asked them, ‘Do we put an armed guard on every bus?’” Laub said.
One parent supported having armed guards at the school and said she would support paying higher taxes for the additional safety.
Laub said safety plans should not be too restrictive, but restrictive enough to be safe.
“The most important part of school safety is knowing our kids,” Laub said, saying personal intervention is probably the biggest reason why some tragedies are avoided.
One area the schools have found instrumental in helping enforce safety is monitoring Twitter and Facebook accounts and urging students to advise an adult if someone is discussing harms or issuing threats on social media.
“We inspect lockers, look through notebooks go on Facebook, Twitter,” Dobos-Buller said. “You don’t ignore that anymore.”
Other ideas discussed included metal detectors. An officer at the meeting said it had been talked about, but it could mean a delay entering the building, leaving students outside.
“Plus you would need (qualified) personnel,” Laub said. “We can’t ask our secretaries to do that,” Laub said.
The superintendent was hesitant about the concept of arming teachers.
“I’m not sure if I’m comfortable saying, ‘Let’s arm staff,’” Laub said.
Safety will be a focus of new middle school
With plans currently being submitted for the new middle school approved in November, Laub said it gives the district an opportunity to make sure safety is a focus.
“As we build a new middle school, will we be considering safety? Without a doubt,” Laub said saying police and fire departments will have input. Parents expressed concern over the current middle school which is overcrowding, noting that it’s easy for an intruder to slip inside.
“When we build a new middle school it will be larger with bigger hallways,” Laub said. An initial drawing included an all-glass media center. “We asked them to consider other options to that,” Laub said.
Laub will review comments and suggestions made at the forum for when the district formally reviews safety procedures.
What are you thoughts on safety in your school district? Add them in comments.