If you were at
Duneland School Board’s discussion meeting on Monday, you learned that
keeping kids safe from attackers is a pretty big deal.
“We’re all in this
together. Safety and security is everybody’s business and we all know that,”
said Duneland Schools Superintendent David Pruis.
Safety was the
topic in the second installment of the school board’s quarterly discussion
meetings. More specifically though, the talk was about how to save lives
should Duneland ever face an active shooter situation.
It’s a subject that
has been a major focus for schools everywhere since the 2012 shooting at
Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. and the one at Columbine High School
before that in 1999.
The deadliest mass
murder at a school actually happened in 1927 in Bath Township, Mich., where
38 children lost their lives in a bombing, said Duneland Schools Director of
Safety and Security Steve Rohe.
Rohe said that
before Columbine, the general rule should one find themselves in a school
shooting was “surround, contain and sweep through.” But in light of the more
recent tragedies, schools have adapted further and are training staff
through drills and looking for warning signs.
Rohe said 81
percent of school shootings included someone knowing ahead of time of the
perpetrator’s plans. Many times someone is too afraid that they will be
thought of as “a snitch,” but Duneland does have an anonymous tip line on
its website, he said. Every possible threat is looked at, he said.
Some people in the
past have had an attitude of “It won’t happen here,” Rohe said. But in fact,
there have been at least two occasions at Duneland where administrators have
taken precautionary actions.
In 2012, shortly
after the Sandy Hook incident, a rumor circulated of violence planned at a
scheduled Chesterton High School pep rally and law enforcement was stepped
up as a result. Then, in 2014, the police search of two fugitives from a
hit-and-run crash on I-94 near the Burns Harbor/Porter exit led to a lockout
at Yost Elementary.
Buildings were also
on high alert late last year as an armed robber fled after a robbery at
First State Bank of Porter in Chesterton.
President Ralph Ayres emphasized what a high priority safety and security is
“We want a safe
environment for our children. We expect that. The community expects that,”
Vice-President Kristin Kroeger said she’s noticed security has been
increased in the three years she’s been on the board.
included installing buzz-in door locks at the entrances of every school
except the high school, which will have one installed this year;
implementing ID scanners; adding a second school resource officer, Sgt.
Chris Swickard, and receiving regular visits from police to amp up safety.
“My hat is off to
all of you,” Kroeger said.
Rohe said active
shooter drills have gone well and teachers should “pretend that it’s real.”
Even in times of extreme stress, people will know what to do if they have
had the right preparation, he said.
An important thing
to remember, Rohe said, is that shooters do not want resistance and are
after the biggest body count in the shortest amount of time. Locking and
barricading the doors are effective ways to stop a shooter. Some of the
worst attacks in school shootings have been when a substitute teacher didn’t
know how to lock the door, Rohe said.
Should a shooter
get in, a teacher should be prepared to fight if they have to, he added.
has gotten on board with many other school corporations in Porter County
with the SchoolGuard phone app that allows teachers to be the first response
for defense. The app sends an alert to the Hero 911 app that is on the
phones of law enforcers within the immediate area.
Rohe had some
general tips for school staff. One would be to greet and challenge anyone in
the building you don’t recognize. Another would be to take note of any
unsecured doors or windows.
“Don’t ignore what
you hear. Pay attention to what you see,” Rohe said.
For students and
staff, don’t wait until after class or whenever it is most convenient to
tell of something that could be a warning sign.
doesn’t look right, it needs to be reported right away,” Rohe said.
Board member John
Marshall said he is concerned that given the trustworthy nature of students
at CHS, they could potentially open a door to a stranger into the school. He
asked what could be done to change the “thought culture” of the school.
Rohe agreed that
students should know not to let any outsider in no matter how benign their
CHS Principal Jeff
Van Drie said the school is working on more open communication with teachers
and the school resources officers. He added that the school has focused on
getting all students involved in school programs which has alleviated some
The school has by
benefited having positive relationships with local law enforcement, which is
not so common at other schools, Van Drie said.
Board members also
wanted to know what is being done at after school and sporting events which
are attended by the general public.
Van Drie said there
are school officials watching the crowds for any behavior that may seem
Board member Mike
Trout said the public demands a degree of access given the fact these are
public schools, but there should be a balance sought to accommodate the
public’s wants with protecting students and teachers.
The board also took
questions from the audience which included a few questions from Duneland
teachers about recommended actions in a shooter scenario, which indicated to
Kroeger that some more training will be beneficial.
that teachers and the public should learn the difference between a lockout
and a lockdown. A lockout happens when there is a perceived danger outside
of the school and the students are moved inside until the threat is removed.
A lockdown happens when there is a danger inside the school and students and
teachers will lock themselves inside of classrooms until law enforcement can
remove the threat.
Ayres adjourned the
meeting saying that anyone with questions and comments should address them
to Rohe or anyone on the school board.