In light of the most recent school shootings in Florida, the Crestwood School District has taken action to upgrade its security, by increasing police presence in its schools, and by meeting with a school safety expert for better emergency preparedness plans. The district also hopes to begin guiding teachers, staff, and students –from kindergarten to 12th grade –with drills and advice as to how they can be ready for any situation, including that of an active shooter on school grounds.
Superintendent Joseph Gorham, who has three school-age children, explained this week that he approaches the subject of school safety first as a father, then as a district administrator. “No one wants to go to work or school feeling unsafe or living in a world of fear,” he said, adding of Crestwood revamping its security plan, “We’ve really upped our game. We’re doing everything we possibly can.”
One of the first actions Crestwood, and St. Jude’s School, has taken in the weeks since the Florida shootings is expanding its police presence, a move that came under the direction of the governor. Previously, the Wright Township Police Department had an officer visit Crestwood’s secondary campus daily; the district does not have one school resource officer, but rather the police rotate school visits. Since Feb. 27, that has increased.
“When possible, we’ll have a car with a man in it either behind the school or out front. We’re going to be visibly seen,” stated Wright Police Chief Royce Engler. “The State Police are also going to come out a couple times a week and we’re going to be going into the schools and walking the halls.” Asked how this will be effective, Engler responded, “If someone sees a police car, they’re not going to be prone to cause problems.”
Local police, from Wright, Fairview, and Rice townships, as well as some township supervisors and school board members also met with district administrators recently to discuss how to protect the schools better. The meetings included consultations with an “expert in school safety.”
While Gorham didn’t feel comfortable naming this expert, he did say that the expert is someone in the Mountaintop community who has worked across the country on security issues. These issues cover everything, from weather events and fires, to active shooters, intruders, and threats from prison break escapees. Of relying on the expert, Gorham added, “We didn’t want to go about this willy-nilly because we’re not experts in school safety.”
The philosophy of the safety expert and of the district, Gorham went on, “is the number one tool that will save your life is situational awareness.” The expert has made recommendations to the district for better training for teachers and staff, again stressing that “situational awareness” is key to survival. While training, the staff may be put in situations that make them uncomfortable, Gorham said, but this is important in preparing them to handle a situation where they or their students are threatened.
There’s been talk of certain tools, like special door stoppers to keep intruders out of classrooms. While those items may work, they could also do the opposite by blocking a door, Gorham went on, stating that what’s more important than any tool is a student’s or a teacher’s ability to assess their surroundings and practically use the items around them for safety.
As far as what to do in the case of an active shooter, Gorham didn’t divulge specifics of the plans, because doing so, he explained, would be counterproductive. For example, if