School district safety efforts good signs in difficult times

Jenni Muncie-Sujan voices her concerns about student safety to the Bartholomew Consolidated School Board during a meeting at Northside Middle School in Columbus, Monday, Feb. 26, 2018. Muncie-Sujan created the BCSC Safety Now Parent Forum on Facebook. She attended the meeting to voice the group’s concerns about security at local schools in light of recent threats. Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Student safety is top of mind in the community, and for good reason. Fatal shootings at a Florida high school last month and recent threats at a Columbus high school have students and parents concerned.

Well-being of students was on the minds of parents when they addressed the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. board during a Feb. 26 meeting.

The previous week, a Columbus East High School student had been accused of using social media to threaten to shoot up the school and a former East student was accused of using social media to make a different threat against school.

Roughly two weeks before the school board meeting, a 19-year-old man killed 17 students or teachers and wounded 16 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where he had been a former student.

Six weeks before the Feb. 14 school shootings in Parkland, Florida, Bartholomew Consolidated had taken the initiative to perform an analysis to identify potential security gaps at its school buildings. The district is in the process of filling the gaps.

Last week, the BCSC school board met in executive session to discuss implementation of school security systems, and to discuss the assessment, design and implementation of school safety and security measures, plans and systems.

What parents learned from school officials at the Feb. 26 meeting is that Bartholomew Consolidated already has invested $25 million in taking multiple steps in recent years to increase school safety. The district now has:

  • Controlled entrances at all of its schools
  • Lockdown buttons at all but one of its schools, and the one without will have one installed soon
  • 1,040 cameras watching inside and outside 21 district-owned buildings
  • Given electronic swipe cards to certain personnel

Additionally, each school has a crisis plan in place and practices safety and security drills — such as fire, lockdown and earthquake — on a routine basis, whether monthly, each semester or annually.

School safety is something that affects the entire community. The students and faculty are our children, grandchildren, spouses, siblings, friends and neighbors. Ensuring that their school environment is safe is important.

Learning of the Columbus-based school district’s self-examination regarding safety at each school and seeing the dialogue among parents and school officials are welcome and encouraging signs toward that end.

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