Area schools look to deter violence with safety measures

Douglas M. Kafury

It has been seven years since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold stalked the halls of their high school in Littleton, Colo., and killed 12 students, a teacher and themselves. The massacre at Columbine High School was an eye-opener for many people, and local high school administrators are still trying to make sure shootings don’t happen at their schools.

Theodore Roosevelt High School Principal Roger Sidoti said ensuring student and faculty safety is important to having a productive learning environment.

“If you come to school afraid, you won’t learn anything,” Sidoti said.

Sidoti said he believes there are two key aspects to safety.

The most obvious is the physical aspect of safety. He said locking most access doors to the school and using security cameras are important tools for safety. However, he said it is virtually impossible to have all access points secured, and the school cannot afford enough cameras to cover everything.

That’s where the second aspect of a safe environment comes into play. Sidoti said it is more important and practical for students and faculty members to develop a secure and safe attitude.

“Students are the key to creating a safe school environment,” Sidoti said.

He said keeping the lines of communication open is vital because if someone sees or hears something suspicious, he or she should report it and stop a potential crisis before it happens.

Sidoti said earlier this year, 15 to 20 students expressed concerns about a suspicious van parked next to the school. The vehicle turned out to be a transportation van for the band. Regardless of the circumstances, he was pleased with the response.

“That’s not paranoia, that’s being responsible,” Sidoti said.

Field High School Principal Mike Harris said the best way to make sure violence doesn’t break out is to be visible. Teachers, a security guard and on occasion police officers frequent the halls of the school, and that acts as a deterrent for violent acts.

Harris said getting to know students is also important. He frequently visits with students at lunch and in the halls before and after classes.

He said it is easier to get know students because Field, which has approximately 700 students, is relatively small when compared with Columbine. That is about one-third of the number of students as Columbine, and students there were often overlooked.

“It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle,” Harris said.

Harris said every classroom has a flip chart that lists every possible emergency situation along with a class roster. The chart details what action teachers should take if a crisis occurs.

Both Field and Roosevelt have procedures if a gunman were to threaten the school. Harris said the procedure would be to lock down the school, and they have practiced the drill two times this year.

“The more you talk about it, the more you practice it, it becomes second nature,” Harris said.

Both schools also have standing safety committees to address areas that might be of concern, and both committees meet often to review procedures if violent acts were to occur.

Adam McClarey, senior secondary education major, is a student teacher at Field. He said he thinks the school does a good job with safety and security, and the possibility of a school shooting is the last thing on his mind.

“I never even think about it,” McClarey said.

Harris also said he doesn’t think anything like Columbine would ever happen at his school. However, Sidoti said no matter how many deterrents a school might have against violence, anything can happen. He cited the Red Lake High School shootings in 2005 and said the school had gates, metal detectors and a security guard on duty, but people still lost their lives.

“It can happen at anytime, at any school, anywhere in the United States,” Sidoti said.

Contact public affairs reporter Douglas M. Kafury at [email protected]