School security is changing


Katie Price

Homestead has made it a goal to update its security over the past years.

Recent national events, including the school shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018 and Sante Fe High School on May 18, 2018, paved the way for security updates at Homestead, in order to provide safety to the students and faculty, according to Principal Brett Bowers.

In the past few years, there have been many random acts of violence, shocking the nation, especially in public places, such as schools.

According to CNN, there have been 288 school shootings since 2009. Compared to other countries, this number is significantly higher. In Canada and France, there have been two school shootings, and in Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom, there have been zero. This has caused an urgency across the country and state to make some changes.

Due to the recent events, the state of Wisconsin has helped by providing schools across the state with the resources they need to accomplish that. “They have given a lot of opportunities for school districts to access grant dollars to support school safety. Most districts like us have pursued those dollars. A number of things have changed because we have access to resources we didn’t have before, and money we didn’t have before,” Bowers said.

To help increase safety, schools have been suggested to make a change in their main entrance. According to Tarie Umhoefer, the School Resource Officer and Police Liaison, “The Wisconsin Department of Justice would like every school to have one main entrance with a locked door system.”

The Campus Safety Magazine stated that “in 2018, there were 82 school shooting incidents in the United States, the highest there have ever been since 1970.” This is another shocking number that prompted change throughout the state, and locally at Homestead.

As mentioned by Bowers earlier, the grant dollars provided by the state of Wisconsin have given the school and district the opportunity to pursue their goals to improve the security and safety of staff and students.

At the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, staff from all across the Mequon-Thiensville School District underwent a training provided by the company “SafePlans.” “The focus of the training was active shooter defense response and all-hazards preparedness. Also, to focus on the response which might lead to run, hide, and fight,” Umhoefer said.

School Psychologist, Mary Beth O’Brien was also involved in the safety training. “A big feature of the training was to bring awareness to our surroundings, but also knowing what best practice is in those situations, and what research has shown,” O’Brien said.

According to Bowers, “Part of the training was about trying to be proactive, try to get out in front of any problems, and part of it was if you have to be reactive, how do you do that in the best way possible to keep people as safe as you can.”

Students have also recently undergone a new change, except with the lockdown procedure. The lockdown procedure practiced this year has looked different, not only to students, but also staff and faculty.

Umhoefer said, “It is trending more towards run, hide, and fight, whereas before it was to secure everybody and not move. Each classroom has the opportunity to make the best decision based on the situation.”

The new procedures have taught faculty and students how to respond to a crisis, but there have also been physical changes and many preventative measures taken throughout the school to try and ensure that the procedures do not have to be put into play.

According to Umhoefer, as a preventative measure, there has been “a big shift towards the social and emotional well-being students.” Making this more of a main focus is an important step that the school has taken.

Over the past year, there has been a new enforcement with locked doors in classrooms and entrances. “There has been an urgency to make sure doors are locked throughout the school, and students are not to let anyone in,” Umhoefer said.

Teachers are now recommended to teach with their classroom doors locked, a new rule implemented at the beginning of this school year. Also, signs are posted on every door on the perimeter of the school to remind students to not let anyone in the school, even if they know them.

Currently in the district, building and grounds office, located at Homestead, there is a large display screen with multiple live camera views.

Bowers said that, “We are also going to be installing a display screen like that in the check-in office. There will be a number of screens that we can see at any one time, that are all live. Multiple camera angles, including outside views, so that we have the ability to look at what’s happening outside of campus.”

In order to ensure the school is always improving its security, there is a safety committee that meets monthly, which is composed of various staff. “We are constantly working on improvements and keeping the environment [at school] safe,” Umhoefer said.

If a crisis were to happen, the school has implemented a new resource, radios, that would be helpful in an unusual situation.

Using the grant money allowed the district and school to purchase high tech radios that could be used in the middle of a crisis. “All the radios that everyone carries in the district are all new. With a flip of a switch, I can talk to the administrators at any school in the district. The superintendent’s office can, with a flip of a switch, talk to an administrator at every school, and provide notification if something is going on,” said Bowers.

Students weighed in on the topic and admitted that the new safety and security updates throughout the school have made them feel safer at the school. “After hearing about all the things that the school and district have done to increase the safety at school, it has definitely made me feel a lot safer and more secure at Homestead,” Ashley Zaiss sophomore, said.

According to The Washington Post, “More than 219,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine.” In order to lower the numbers, including this one, surrounding school shootings, these are all important steps needed to be taken.

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