Schools take steps to improve student safety

Joe Nathan

Center For School Change

Increased student safety is very much on the minds of the more than 40 Minnesota school leaders who responded to a recent survey. Many districts have made changes to their buildings and changes in procedures. Here’s what several area school leaders told me.

Asked what changes the district had made after the tragic school shooting last year in Sandy Hook, Conn., Ben Barton, Caledonia superintendent, wrote: “Last year Caledonia Public Schools created a crisis team consisting of law enforcement officials, fire/ambulance officials, mental health workers, counselors, nurses, school administration and school staff. The team met monthly to analyze and update existing crisis plans, create new plans and review infrastructure needs.

“We are installing a surveillance system throughout the (middle and high school) building and have plans to reconfigure our entrances at all of our buildings to create a more secure setting.

“In addition, we are working with local law enforcement to conduct an ‘active shooter’ drill with in our buildings. We are pleased with the progress we have made in one year; however, we know we still have a great deal of work to do,” Barton wrote.

Gregory Winter, Braham Area Schools superintendent, explained: “In Braham, we have done a major physical reconfiguration of the entrances at both the elementary and secondary school. This will allow us to monitor all visitors at both sites. We have also put new locks on all classroom doors that will enable staff to secure these doors in a very quick and safe manner. Every year, we continue to train staff and students on what to do in any emergency situation.”

Raymond Queener, Cambridge-Isanti superintendent, responded: “Actually, the district has been working on addressing security even before the unfortunate Connecticut incident. The Long Range Facilities Planning Committee was meeting at the very time of the incident. As with all school districts, it has heightened the awareness and has guided our planning of building safety improvements as part of our bond referendum request this fall. In addition, we continually test and modify emergency plans  on an ongoing process.

“We take school safety very seriously and are continually looking for ways to make improvements. Even though schools are considered safe, we want to make sure we do all we can to prevent incidents and should one occur, we are prepared to respond,” Queener wrote.

Shannon Peterson, of Lakes International Charter in Forest Lake, explained: “School security remains a cornerstone of staff training, for the unlikely case someone intent on harm enters our school. Entrance security, hallway cameras and state-mandated safety drills continue to be key in our efforts to maintain a safe environment for learning and working. School security is a strong consideration in the planning process for our second campus. We take all these precautions despite the fact that ‘schools … are still the safest place for children in this country,’ according to Wendy Regoeczi, the director of Criminology Research at Cleveland State University. ‘Children are far less likely to be injured or killed at school than they are almost anywhere else.’”

It’s clear these and other leaders take security seriously. That’s very good news for students, educators and families.


Joe Nathan, formerly a
Minnesota public school teacher, directs the Center for School Change.  Reactions are welcome at [email protected]