School Safety – What’s the Plan?

DeKalb Schools incident report from last month …

Students at [a DeKalb Schools High School] were placed on lockdown this morning as a result of two separate incidents that occurred on campus today.

In the first instance, DCSD Public Safety officers were called to the school after a report of a weapon on the premises. Two males, one a student and the other a non-student were apprehended and arrested. The non-student was found in possession of a firearm. Reports of an armed adult on campus are so far unsubstantiated.

The second incident at the same school that morning involved a stolen car that was tracked to the parking lot by DeKalb County Police. Following a foot chase, four individuals were apprehended and arrested. The theft occurred off school grounds. The two incidents were not related.

A total of six people were arrested on school property this morning.

I get updates like this far too often. What’s the plan to keep our schools safe?
I would like to hear from students, parents, teachers, administrators and the community at large.

I heard Bill Maher say on Friday “Schools that look like prisons have students that are more likely to go to prison. There are high schools that look like a college and those students are more likely to go to college. We gotta get all the schools to look like colleges.” As lovely as the thought is, it’s another useless platitude.

Do we want our high schools to look like and operate like prisons and be secure? Here’s what we’re looking at.

K-9s (“canine”), – K-9s like Rex and Rocky, tasked with locating drugs and weapons, are part of a new push for public safety in DeKalb Schools. They can smell dangerous substances left behind for more than a day. They can tell if an individual has handled and even used a firearm based solely on scent.

Metal Detectors – DeKalb Schools’ increased safety initiative also includes a pilot program with metal detectors at numerous high schools.

Fences – Numerous principals in DeKalb are contemplating fencing to enhance campus security. High schools are vulnerable at their many points of egress. Fencing can limit that exposure.

School Resource Officers (SROs) – Officers make roughly $45K plus benefits. They are sworn law enforcement officers, fully armed, and are responsible for providing security and crime prevention services at our schools.

Smaller Schools
The research is clear that smaller schools have less violence and produce better academic results. The research indicates that smaller schools tend to be safer and are generally better places for students to learn. Graduation rates are generally higher, greater teacher satisfaction, small schools are more flexible, there is less one size fits all, etc…

Allow Teachers to Carry Firearms – If our SROs can be trained to carry firearms, why can’t some teachers? Floyd County Georgia BOE rep, Jay Shell, asks on Facebook, “Is it time that we partner with our local law enforcement agencies to train our educators on how to use firearms?”. Alabama State Rep. Will Ainsworth plans on introducing a bill to the Alabama State Legislature that would allow trained, certified teachers to carry weapons on school campuses.

DeKalb Schools Superintendent Green is not a fan of gun toting teachers. “There’s training to be a teacher, and then there’s training to be a law enforcement officer,” DeKalb County School District Superintendent Steve Green said in a statement Thursday. “Both are unique careers with a specific purpose. We believe our teachers can be most effective by focusing on the task at hand — deep teaching and learning — while the district and its schools work closely with law enforcement on a collaboration of undercover and uniformed officers.”

Parents: it’s time to STEP UP, says a Florida Teacher of the Year

Within the last couple of years, DeKalb Schools has created a Student Support and Intervention Division to provide “Wrap Around Services” and address the diverse needs of students and families. The school district has also flooded failing schools with paraprofessionals (parapros), social workers, teacher coaches, etc … DeKalb Schools has added over 1,000 school house full/part time employees across the district since 2014.

Kelly Guthrie Raley, a Florida middle school Teacher of the Year, posted on Facebook this commentary to parents:

Until we, as a country, are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for the mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support when the schools are trying to control horrible behavior at school (oh no! Not MY KID. What did YOU do to cause my kid to react that way?), lack of moral values, and yes, I’ll say it-violent video games that take away all sensitivity to ANY compassion for others’ lives, as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream up in each others’ faces and not value any other person but themselves, we will have a gun problem in school. Our kids don’t understand the permanency of death anymore!!!

I grew up with guns. Everyone knows that. But you know what? My parents NEVER supported any bad behavior from me. I was terrified of doing something bad at school, as I would have not had a life until I corrected the problem and straightened my ass out. My parents invaded my life. They knew where I was ALL the time. They made me have a curfew. They made me wake them up when I got home. They made me respect their rules. They had full control of their house, and at any time could and would go through every inch of my bedroom, backpack, pockets, anything! Parents: it’s time to STEP UP!

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21 responses to “School Safety – What’s the Plan?

  1. Here are my thoughts about the teacher letter posted here.
    As a daughter raised with guns and by a war hero myself, I don’t buy into this. 20 years ago, there were not semi-automatic weapons being sold to teenagers or anyone. 20 years ago we did not have so many parents who were “raised” by a generation lost to addiction that so few of us actually realized (but it’s coming again). And, 20 years ago real wages were higher, our justice system was not so privatized that it was profiting from destroying families, we had not been at war for 20 years, and the nation still had hope. Today there is little hope and little pride from the nation down to the family unit. It will take time to heal. In the meantime, the selling and use of semi-automatic weapons must stop. Real hunters and real marksmen and women don’t need semi-automatic weapons….. Re-read my second sentence before lashing out or dismissing the idea.

    Maybe instead of militarizing our schools, we should look at what Australia did. They have not had a school shooting since 1998– 20 years free from the terror and helplessness that is strangling our country and our real problem solving.

  2. SGates, Aside from shotguns and bolt action rifles, semi-automatic weapons are generally everything not automatic. Gun legislation is an important topic. However, It’s outside of my direct jurisdiction as a BOE rep. Securing our schools is something I can directly affect. It looks like you’re a vote for a legislative solution.

  3. I stand firmly with Dr. Green in his opposition to arming teachers!!!!! Clearly an armed Resource Officer was not a solution in Parkland. Connected communities with strong parental involvement (read: neighborhood schools NOT mega schools) and wrap-around services are how we begin to address the mental health component. I will be curious to hear data about K-9 and metal detector pilot programs. I’m not sure I get how fencing could help with this particular issue, but am open to learning more about it.

    The bottom line is we all need to work together as a community not get split apart by divisive elements of this issue.

  4. I used to be terrified of guns. I get it. I got over it when a guy walked by my home while I was gardening in the middle of the day. I went in a few minutes later. He then knocked on the door, I didn’t feel comfortable answering, so he tried to open the locked door and left. I called the police, they later found him and he said he was selling magazines. I decided to get a gun in case there were any more salesmen who felt it was necessary to try to open my door. I am a single parent and have a son to protect. I think a select few of the staff in my son’s school would do fine with conceal carry. Get training, read up on Jeff Cooper, get a gun safe and be prepared if a gunman gets by the front office. Just a few of the staff in strategic areas of the school can save lives for the next officer who decides not to go into a school with an active shooter. That cowardice only strengthens my resolve on gun rights and how important it is for us to protect ourselves. That officer should spend the rest of his life in prison for negligent homicide. Now that we have seen that, don’t you think teachers are motivated to do what it takes to survive an invasion like this?

  5. Add enroute to & from school to your list of action items. The number one cause of childhood deaths in the USA is from motor vehicle crashes. How about actively endorsing and enacting for all of our K-12 schools the Safe Routes to School program? Did you know there are principals and staff out there saying it’s UNSAFE for our children to walk or ride a bike to school? America WAS great when we used to have over fifty percent of our children walking or riding bikes to school.Contact the Georgia Safe Routes to School Resource Center for details. And PS: Residents & visitors of all ages in our country should be safe regardless of their location. Movies, offices, parks, streets, malls, etc…

    Reference: http://saferoutesga.org/

  6. Stan, can you tell us more about your statement that “The research is clear that SMALLER SCHOOLS HAVE LESS VIOLENCE and produce better academic results.”

    If that’s true, how can it be a good thing for our children that DCSD is choosing NOW to build mega high-schools?

    Do we have all our eggs in the wrong “mega-high school” basket? This isn’t just a $$ issue. It’s about the safety of our wonderful teachers and students.

  7. I support smaller schools, school resource officers, and routine K-9 unit patrols in our schools. I’d like to see the school system consulting security experts to determine best practices and how they might be applied/adapted to our existing facilities and future ones.

  8. Australia Gun Buy Back – While the gun buy back program in Australia was relatively successful, I’m not sure if we could replicate that in the United States. The Australia Buy Back program claimed 1/5 to 1/3 of Australia’s guns which amounts to 650K to 1M guns. There are over 300M guns in the US, that would require a confiscation of 60 to 100 million guns. Also, Australia doesn’t have any laws protecting gun ownership. For the sake of argument (Devil’s advocate), I’d like to point out that while Australia was confiscating guns, the rate of gun ownership in the US was increasing. The gun homicide rate in both countries have been dropping at the same rate over the same time period. Just something to consider.

    Fences – There are many unlocked doors at a high school. Even more doors that are locked, but can be opened by someone on the inside to let people in. If we had a fence around the perimeter, we could limit and secure the entry points to the school.

    Smaller Schools – Smaller schools mean shorter distances to school and limits exposure among other things.

    Mega Schools – Shoehorning 2,000 – 3,000 kids into one high school is cheaper than building a new school. It also allows the district to balance out the racial diversity and socio-economics of the student populations attending LHS, CCHS and DHS by dividing up and busing the immigrant populations to those schools.

  9. DSW2Contributor

    Stan, here is the question you and the rest of the board need to be asking Dr. Green:

    Dr. Green — how is DCSD securing the students who go to class in trailers?

    (My belief is that trailers CANNOT be secured.)

    vinyl siding is not going to stop bullets

  10. DSW2 Contributor,
    I guess that’s my point, how far are we willing to go? Hundreds of children are outside at any given high school at any given time. Are we going to stop letting our children outside of the school building during school hours? Instead of fences, are we going to start building walls around our schools?

  11. Fences would also prevent our children from escaping a shooter – as much as they keep people out, they keep people in. Bad idea. And unless DCSD is willing to pay for expensive fencing, I’m guessing it will be chain link….easily cut with bolt cutters…who will keep up the maintenance?

  12. Stan, we in DeKalb Schools, and the entire state of Georgia have been very fortunate. How many of the readers of this blog remember September 25th, 1996 when Dr. Horace Morgan was shot to death at DeKalb Alternative School by a student. A miracle that day that no one else was injured. I believe, it is still the only school shooting in the state where a staff member was targeted. Horace was a gentleman, wonderful teacher and a friend.

  13. I do remember when Dr. Morgan was killed. “Retired AP ” may also remember that DeKalb use to have a K9 Unit and a Gang Unit. A school could request a K9 search. The gang unit would come to schools and talk to students and staff about a range of problems associated with gangs, weapons and stopping violence. One of our former superintendents did away with both of these programs. The K-9s are not a new push. They are important, but Dr. Green is not the first DeKalb superintendent to start this program.
    I know one of the buzz terms is “wrap around services”, but the hours of counselors and social workers were cut. This has never been restored. But we have a bigger public relations department. I don’t know how long we went without a head of our police department. I do not think that we have a SRO at every school. I remember at a BOE Meeting, Stan mentioned POST certification and training. Was that ever done?
    DeKalb needs to be honest about where we place our resources. When something happens DeKalb loves to go the Public Relations route. But what about the day to day things that should be done to keep everyone safe?
    As we are adding on to our schools, are we taking into consideration safety and security?

  14. Joy, I remember both well. The Gang Unit, gave several presentations at the Alternative School. The K-9 unit made regular sweeps there, as well. I also remember rotating on the SEHC (Student Evidentiary Hearing Committee), before “restorative justice”, became the new buzzword.

  15. Safety Teacher

    For the larger schools, a good deterrent would be to keep a public safety car visibly parked at school everyday. A simple threat that I see comes from secondary doors. Rear doors or side doors at several schools I’ve visited are never monitored and students often don’t maintain security allowing adults entry through those doors. At minimum secondary doors need better signage, maybe cameras but ideally a security guard when the school is open.

  16. Mr Jester,

    I don’t know what issues will have to be faced concerning the budget for next school year. I really hope that the bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers can get a raise. The bus drivers had a huge task today. In some cases, they had to turn around pretty quickly and take home the students that they had just taken to school. Cafeteria workers had to try to quickly feed many students. If schools did not have water, the custodians still had to find a way to try to keep things clean.
    Many of these individuals work very hard each and every day. I am not taking away anything from the teachers, para educators, counselors, social workers and all of the other people who work hard each day in the best interest of our students. But I hope in the budget process there will be some consideration given to bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians. As always thank you for having a venue for people to express their opinions.

  17. I wonder what sort of obligation the bus drivers have to DCSD on days like today.

    In theory, don’t they have the middle of the day to themselves? They might have doctor appointments, have family obligations, maybe even another part time job. I doubt that they are paid for an 8 hour day.

    But when something unexpected happens, they have to drop everything and change their schedule. They also probably had the agonizing task of having to drop off elementary school children in the middle of the morning without knowing whether the children would be supervised or could get out of the cold.

    Do the bus drivers get extra pay for days like today?
    Are they penalized if they can’t change their own personal plans?

    God bless our bus drivers.

  18. Stan Jester

    I’m also concerned about the hundreds of elementary school children that came home to a locked and/or empty home.

  19. Stan,

    How and when were parents informed that the schools were dismissing the students?

  20. @Joy. I know at CCHS teachers were outside telling kids that were being dropped off that school was canceled and to go home. I took my son home and went to work, then I got a message around 8:30 that school would release early.

    I called the school because I did not want my son to get an I unexcused absence and the school assured me that they would not count that day.

    I applaud CCHS for taking matters into their own hands. The students that could go home took less stress off of the classroom and the school. The teachers emailed my student and told him not to worry and sent him the necessary school work.

    I have to say it was a win win for us that day.

  21. Stan Jester

    Joy,
    This message was received at 8:09am. Elementary school starts at 7:45am.

    All campuses in the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) will release early on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, due to the impact of a water main break in the county.
    Early release times are as follows:
    • Elementary schools – 10 a.m.
    • High schools – 11:15 a.m.
    • Middle schools- 12:15 p.m.
    Thank you.

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