Green Country Schools Work To Keep Campuses Secure After National Tragedies

Wednesday, August 17th 2022, 10:34 pm

Ten years ago, a man shot and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. It's one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, and people hoped it would be the last, but far from it. These acts of violence happen in other schools, most recently in Uvalde, Texas.

News On 6 looked into what Green Country schools, both big and small are doing to protect children on campus as the new school year starts.

Most schools in Green Country, no matter the size, have secure entrances, security cameras, "keep doors locked" policies and other safety measures in place. School leaders and law enforcement officers say training and being mentally prepared are just as important.

"Everyone of us thinks of these kids as our kids. We want to protect them with our life,” said Mike Stasyszen who is a school resource officer with the Sequoya County Sheriff's Office.

Each time children get murdered at a school, panic sets in for superintendents, teachers, students and parents. They are wondering, 'what if this happened at my school?'

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

News On 6 met with school leaders at different districts and asked: 'what have you done since Sandy Hook to improve school security?'

We found school safety and security are now at the very top of the priority list, but one of the biggest challenges is overcoming the mindset of, 'oh it won't happen here.'"

"We don't take it for granted. You don't become complacent and you don't go 'oh we've got this figured out' like this policy we've got and this practice works, it's great, we developed it from wherever else, and this will cover us. I think you have to have the mindset that you always have to evaluate that,” said Dr. Garland.

Dr. Garland is in his fourth year as superintendent of Liberty Public schools, where Kindergarten through 12th grade are all on one campus. Dr. Garland has spent most of his life working in education, but 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 from coming into the perimeter to begin with, then accessing the buildings. Slowing them down is a big factor in what you are trying to do,” said Garland.

The district has added fencing around the campus, and removed barriers so a suspect has fewer places to hide. To get inside their buildings, you have to pass through a security system.

Jenks Public Schools have poured more than five million dollars into security over the last ten years.

"Every time there is a tragic event. It doesn't even have to be a school, it can be in a community, it can be at a resturaunt, or at a clothing store. We look at our plans and procedures and we start to ask the question, 'do we have gaps?,” said Jenks Public Schools Chief Operations Officer Jeffrey Beyer.

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 gets inside without going through a security checkpoint.

Not only do schools have secure entrances where there is only one way in each building, but a lot of schools run background checks on each school visitor. The system runs the names of all visitors through violent and sex offender registries.

Beyer said all students are required to wear an ID and scan them to get into buildings. Beyer said teachers and staff are trained to identify potential threats and a new Trojan Tip Line allows students and parents and report anything, anonymously.

"We are all on duty to report concerns. Acts of indiscriminate violence can take place anywhere,” said Beyer.

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

“We learn and we study those situations, we consult with subject matter experts so we are constatly improving our practices and keeping our kids safe,” said Jorge Robles, the Tulsa Public Schools Chief Operations Officer.

Oklahoma School resource officers spent three days in Tulsa training this summer. Mike Stasyszen works with the Sequoya County Sheriff's Office and has been a resource officer for the last 15 years. He has seen the school security changes first hand.

"That was the biggest problem we had, is that classrooms aren't locked school doors aren't locked. We are trying to educate as SRO's how to maintain security at schools.,” said Mike Stasyszen.

"What we want the most is for kids to actually go to school. To a place they are suppsoed to be safe and be safe. Thats why we work hard, 24/7, so that happens,” said Robles.


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