Schools work to promote student safety

Written by: Ellie Harris, Opinion Editor

Photo by: Olivia Biddle, News Editor

Adam Barton

Adam Barton

 

In the wake of the tragedy in Parkland, Fla. communities across the country are paying more attention to the security of their schools and the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County is no exception.

However, the work the schools’ administrators do 365 days a year to ensure the safety of its students is sometimes forgotten.

“It’s always ongoing, it’s always something that’s on top of our minds,” assistant principal Adam Barton said, “We have monthly safety meetings with all the administrators in the corporation to go through what we do inside each building and we always make sure we tweak our safety plan.”

According to Barton, the safety plan is almost 80 pages of information that covers the protocol for a multitude of scenarios and it is constantly being revised.

“The keys to the safety plan is to make sure every teacher is aware if there is an emergency lockdown drill or a preventative lockdown drill to try to keep it as basic as possible,” Barton said. “But the key things are really the little things we do every day: the visitors badges, people coming through in through the main office, everyone’s not propping door so people can come in without being checked as they come in.”

In response to a school shooting Feb. 14 in which 17 high school students died, Miles Hercamp, the school corporation’s director of safety, is among the administrators doing their part to make safety as easy as possible.

“Right now doors are supposed to be locked, but the problem is getting in and out. So we are getting little magnets to go in the doors so they can open and close, but if there’s a lockdown instead of having to come outside to lock the door, (teachers) will just open the door a little bit and pull that magnet out and the doors are locked,” Hercamp said, “That’s something simple and it’s not going to eliminate everything.”

But building safety isn’t the only component to keeping students safe. The CSCSHC participates in active shooter simulations as well as cybersecurity seminars.

“So if parents see something online they know ‘this is what you need to do these are the things you need to look for’,” Hercamp said.

Communication is key, and administrators in association with local resource officers are trying to make that more of a priority.

“We think one of the things that could make schools safer is to have bigger presence of SRO’s (student resource officers),” Hercamp said, “We have one on campus and we have one at the Doe Creek campus area. But, there are six or seven guys that come in and out all the time. It would be nice to have one person that is here every single day so that the students know who he or she is and start building relationships.”  

The purpose of these relationships is so students feel comfortable enough with the presence of SRO’s to tell them when something is off. Through these relationships, the officers might also be able to identify activity that is out of the ordinary on their own.

“What we don’t know we can’t investigate,” Hercamp said, “We need reports. We need to get students and parents comfortable in reporting if they see something suspicious.”

Anyone who would like to report can find the link on the district’s website, the Southern Hancock mobile app, and on the student Canvas page. Students are also encouraged to report anything in person to any staff member at any time.

“It’s not just bullying it’s any incident you think is a problem,” Hercamp said.

In addition to SROs, the principals themselves also look into reports.

“The high school reports go to Mr. Barton and Mr. (Kieth) Fessler, and the NPE reports go to Mr. (Vincent) Meo and Mrs. (Katy) Eastes and so forth, and there are two of us at the corporation office that get all of them,” Hercamp said.

Hercamp, Barton and Fessler all work together to investigate every report from NPHS they are given, no matter what day or hour. One Friday after Barton and Fessler had already left the building, Hercamp called them back to work to look over a report he had received at 4:30 p.m. that afternoon.

“(We) found out there was nothing to it, but it was a report we had to investigate and we investigate every one,” Hercamp `said.

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