DIGGING DEEPER: School Security: Are your kids safe?

How safe are your kids at school? There have been 12 school shootings in the U.S. already this year, according to NBC News.

Students at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the site of the most recent shooting, continue to keep school safety in the national spotlight.

Nine out of 10 public school districts now use drills to prepare students and teachers for possible mass shootings, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

But those drills can look very different, from students involved in a drill with someone playing the role of a shooter firing a "gun",  to only teachers in a classroom setting learning the best ways to respond.
The February shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people, is motivating some Tri-State schools to do more to protect their own staff and students.

In Hannibal, within weeks of the Florida shooting, parents were meeting with district officials asking for more to be done. The district has decided to add metal detector wands.

A new app is also being introduced in the district. The "Bully Box" app lets students report either bullying or other school safety concerns including weapons, drugs or fights. The report then goes to a school administrators email, alerting them of the situation. 

Hannibal parent Jon Capp, who is a firearms instructor and former law enforcement, also pushed for the district to add the next line of defense, a non-lethal Salt gun.

He explained that the Salt gun fires seven pepper ball rounds with tear gas mixed in them.

"Hannibal recently went through a drill and my daughter text me and said that on her classroom door the lock did not work, it failed and so she said she was a "dead daughter", Capp explained. "She was joking with me, but at the same time as a parent I’m taking it pretty serious."

Hannibal Superintendent Susan Johnson said the district’s insurance would not cover Salt guns. Now, Capp wants the district to arm teachers with firearms. Johnson said the school board has not yet discussed the addition of firearms.

In Palmyra, School Resource Officer Patrick Anderson wants to hold more interactive drills and get kids even more involved. He said it’s important everyone is prepared.

"We train like we would respond in a real-life situation. They can revert back to that training that they’ve received, so it’s going to be something that they are not going to really have trouble thinking about. It’s just something they are going to know what to do," Anderson said. 

"In order to be good and something and be prepared for something, if you don’t practice it’s not going to have a good outcome," Palmyra Police Chief Eddie Bogue added.

Palmyra Superintendent Kirt Malone said the drills can be scary, especially for the younger students, but he said he believes they are beneficial.

"Teachers do a really good job talking to the little ones about what’s going to happen and why we have to do this. It’s scary, but we want to make sure everybody is safe is something were to ever happen," Malone said.
The Quincy Public School district takes a different approach.

"Trying to prevent shootings is not our strength. Our strength is kids and taking care of kids." QPS Superintendent Roy Webb said.

Webb thinks the more realistic drills including teachers and students are not necessary, but he said the district does follow established minimum requirements according to Illinois law. 

Webb said he believes the current staff training and safety measures are adequate.

"I’m very confident that the staff knows what to do and like I said, that that calm teacher knows what to do when they get that either during the drill, or would have an actual intruder in the school," Webb said.

Still, Quincy mother of four Jillian Miller thinks more realistic drills area a good idea and said she thinks kids should be involved.

"I would rather them have an emotional turmoil in a fake situation then they are building those skills for the real situation," Miller said.

Miller said a bad situation could happen here and it did, when she was in seventh grade at Quincy Junior High School in 1983.  

"A peer who was in many classes with me had made a hit list and he one day brought a weapon to school in his duffel bag," Miller explained.

Miller said the student told a friend in the class. That student then went to administration and the plan was thwarted. The student was expelled, but did return and graduate from QHS.
"I don’t remember any news media, I don’t remember anybody talking about it for days or weeks on end. It just went away," Miller said.

While parents, school districts, and police debate the best way to handle a growing concern, Anderson said everyone seeks the same result.

"We just have to do our best to prepare for it and be ready for it and just hope and pray that it’s not going to happen here," Anderson said.

Under Missouri law, schools are required to hold two active intruder drills a year with students and staff, in addition to yearly training.

In Illinois law, schools must partner with local law enforcement at least once a year to run a school shooter drill. Students do not have to be included.

And in Iowa, in April 2018 the governor signed a law requiring schools to develop a "high-quality emergency operation plan", that includes responses to active shooters. The plan must be in place by June 2019. 

In March, five weeks after the Parkland School shooting, the U.S. House passed the STOP School Violence Act. The bill authorized $50 million dollars per year for school security.

 The bill aims to do more to prevent school violence and stop would-be shooters before they act. It would help schools and law enforcement pay for active shooter drills. It would also fund things like apps that better help students report potential threats. 

Palmyra Police Chief Eddie Bogue says it’s going to money to address the growing issue of school security.

"We may have to make some adjustments and learn to make schools that are safer," Bogue said. "Spend money on training, not just for police but for the faculty, the staff. Education, educating the parents."

The bill is now in the Senate. None of the money in the current proposal would be used to arm teachers.



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