District responds to recent gun tragedies

Gun violence research groups analyze the year and statistics of events that occurred regarding gun violence.

According to an article published on cbsnews.com, as of Dec.1 there have been 385 mass shootings in 2019, more mass shootings this year than days in a calendar year. It has unfortunately become more common for shootings and threats to occur at schools. Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut just had its 7 year anniversary on Dec. 14 of when an active shooter entered their school, leaving dozens dead.

While always in the back of everyone’s minds, this fear of safety has hit closer to home for people living in Wisconsin recently. Schools like Waukesha West High School and Oshkosh West High School are just two examples of schools involved in gun violence in our state since this school year has started. According to an article published earlier this month on cnn.com, a Wisconsin school resource officer shot and wounded a student at Oshkosh West High school on Dec. 3 after the student stabbed him during an altercation. This was the second shooting to take place in a Wisconsin high school in two days.

All these tragedies on the news may cause some to reflect on safety in our own school. According to Mequon-Thiensville (MTSD) School Resource Officer Tarrie Umhoefer, all the schools in the MTSD district are a safe place, including Homestead.

“Safety is important no matter where you go. In order to be able to sit in a class and focus on learning, you cannot sit there in fear. In the realm of life and safety, schools are still a very safe environment despite bad things we sometimes hear. I am constantly working with the school regarding school safety. We have a district safety committee, which is district-wide, that involves all the leaders of the school and myself and we meet on a regular basis to go over any actions that need to be done. This includes things like the new front door entrance, advising that teachers have the door remain closed during class periods, keeping kids from letting students in the doors since there are so many around campus, and many more. It’s always evolving and we are always looking to update and improve our systems. All the campuses in the district have one main entrance as well as abundant surveillance around the school and outside the school,” Umhoefer said.

Homestead also has a new policy as of a few weeks ago, where students who come in the doors after the 7:25 a.m. bell have to scan their school ID’s, as opposed to just signing in. “We are trying to make the door policy more efficient. It helps with accuracy on attendance as well as accountability of where kids are. If there’s an emergency and kids have to evacuate the building, it’s important to know exactly which kids are present and which kids aren’t so everybody is accounted for,” Umhoefer said.

Officer Umhoefer believes it is important to be proactive and have plans in place in case something tragic were to happen.

“Before the 2018-2019 school year started last year, we brought in a company called ‘safe plans’ and all the staff went through a three-day training course through the company to go through safety measures. This was important because teachers are responsible for their students during the school days, and we wanted them to be equipped with all the tools they may need. But sometimes it all comes down to you. To a certain degree, we are also responsible for our own safety. Being aware of our environments and taking action if we hear someone say something potentially threatening is so important. Safety involves a lot of things but a lot of internal preparation too. Having plans and ideas of what you may do if something were to happen is critical,” Umhoefer said.

As for the future, MTSD has plans to improve their safety. “We are likely going to be getting a second officer for the districts, because right now I am the only one, plus I do two private schools in the area. That would be huge because I am such a busy person and it would be helpful to have an extra set of hands. We added a campus safety officer in the evenings, and more surveillance could always be added, but it is not necessarily a preventative measure,” Umhoefer said.