April 11, 2012 (Independence, IA) – Violence occurring on school grounds is something most parents and citizens cannot even fathom, yet several reports of school violence around the country have already been published since the start of 2012. As many of you may already know, 17‐year old in Cleveland, Ohio entered the Chardon High School cafeteria on the morning of February 27th and opened fire. He shot and wounded 3 students and killed 2 more. Were it not for the bravery of the school’s first responders, more students and faculty may have perished. This is only one story of this year’s violence.
According to Kenneth S. Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, there were 284 deaths in the 10 year span between the 1999/2000 and 2009/2010 school years. While no one can predict with 100 percent certainty when a crisis like this will occur, there are specific steps schools can practice to help reduce injuries and deaths.
Faculty and staff at Independence Community School District understand the importance of maintaining a safe learning environment for students and staff. A district‐wide lockdown drill is practiced twice per academic year. The crisis plan also includes drills for tornado and fire emergencies and helps all district employees be prepared.
“We have already implemented several security measures including installing cameras on buses and areas of the Jr./Sr. High School. We have also made entrance into the Elementary buildings funnel through the main offices. Visitors must be buzzed into the building’s office and sign in before entering,” said Superintendent Russell Reiter.
While the current Jr./Sr. High School has more than one entrance open for students who have classes in the buildings not attached to the main structure, the new Jr./Sr. High School will utilize one main entrance which will flow through the front offices.
National School Safety and Security Services recommends working closely with the architects of a new building to improve supervision and safety. The district has been very involved in the planning of the building’s layout and student safety has been one of the focal points. For example, careful consideration has gone into the placement of common areas such as the gymnasium, library, cafeteria and auditorium. The placement of these areas in the new building will allow administration to effectively lock‐down academic wings for extra‐curricular events and eliminate access to certain parts of the building.
Emphasis has also been placed on “line of sight” in hallways and areas requiring supervision. Academic lockers in both wings will be short enough for staff to see over them and supervise students. The parking lot will also be placed in front of the building rather than various lots surrounding the building. This allows for easier surveillance from the front office.
“We strive to create an environment where students can learn and excel and it is vital they feel safe and comfortable enough to accomplish those goals,” said Peterson. If you have any questions regarding building safety, please feel free to contact the administration office at (319) 334‐7400.
Jenny Yoder, Fusion Forward