Green Country Schools Work to Keep Campuses Safe After National Tragedies

Ten years ago, a man shot and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It was one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history, and people were hoping it would be the last, but far from it. These acts of violence are happening in other schools, most recently in Uvalde, Texas.

News On 6 looked at what Green Country schools large and small are doing to protect children on campus as the new school year begins.

Most Green Country schools, regardless of size, have secure entrances, security cameras, “keep doors locked” policies, and other safety measures in place. Headteachers and law enforcement officers say training and mental preparation are equally important.

“All of us consider these children our children. We want to protect them with our lives,” said Mike Stasyszen, school resource officer with the Sequoya County Sheriff’s Office.

Whenever children are murdered in a school, panic sets in among superintendents, teachers, students, and parents. They wonder, ‘what if this happened to my school?’

“You never want to develop this mindset that we have to be safe, that couldn’t happen here because that’s obviously the first reaction people have when any kind of disaster happens, we just didn’t think it could happen here,” Liberty Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Phillip Garland said.

News On 6 met with principals in different districts and asked them, “What have you done since Sandy Hook to make the school safer?”

We’ve found that school safety and security is now at the very top of the priority list, but one of the biggest challenges is overcoming the “oh, that’s not going to happen” mindset. here”. »

“We don’t take that for granted. You don’t get complacent and say ‘oh, we got it’ like this policy we have and this practice works, it’s great, we developed it by the way , and that will cover us. I think you have to have the mindset that you always have to assess that,” Dr. Garland said.

Dr. Garland is in his fourth year as superintendent of Liberty Public Schools, where K-12 is on one campus. Dr. Garland has spent most of his life working in education, but has also worked in a prison and understands security.

“To look at things like the perimeter. What can you do to reduce or slow down people entering the perimeter to begin with and then accessing buildings. Slowing them down is a big factor in what you’re trying to do,” said declared Garland.

The district added fencing around campus and removed gates so a suspect has fewer places to hide. To enter their buildings, you have to go through a security system.

Jenks Public Schools has invested more than five million dollars in safety over the past ten years.

“Whenever there is a tragic event. It doesn’t even have to be a school, it can be in a community, it can be in a restaurant or in a clothing store. We look at our plans and our procedures and we begin to ask the question, “do we have any gaps?” said Jeffrey Beyer, director of operations for Jenks Public Schools.

Beyer said the biggest change since Sandy Hook is how schools are built. Jenks schools have limited entrances, specially positioned parking lots, and no one goes inside without going through a security checkpoint.

Not only do schools have secure entrances where there is only one way into each building, but many schools perform background checks on every school visitor. The system runs the names of all visitors to the violent and sex offender registers.

Beyer said all students must carry ID and scan it to enter buildings. Beyer said teachers and staff are trained to identify potential threats and a new anti-trojan hotline allows students and parents to report anything, anonymously.

“We all have a duty to report concerns. Indiscriminate acts of violence can take place anywhere,” Beyer said.

Tulsa Public Schools have the same security measures as well as a full-time police department on campus. The district said it focuses on prevention, training and building relationships with students so they feel comfortable reporting potential threats.

“We learn and study these situations, we consult with subject matter experts to constantly improve our practices and keep our children safe,” said Jorge Robles, director of operations for Tulsa Public Schools.

Resource officers from the Oklahoma school spent three days in Tulsa training this summer. Mike Stasyszen has worked with the Sequoya County Sheriff’s Office and has been a Resource Officer for 15 years. He saw the school’s security changes firsthand.

“That was the biggest problem we had is that classrooms are not locked, school doors are not locked. We are trying to educate as SROs how to keep schools safe “said Mike Stasyszen.

“What we want most is for children to actually go to school. In a place where they are supposed to be safe and secure. That’s why we work hard, 24/7 on 7, for that to happen,” Robles said.

Maria D. Ervin