Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Parents express confidence in school security

One calls for ‘lockdown’ of schools when classes in session

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum police were on patrol when school was let out Monday at Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum. Heightened security was implemented at Blaine County schools following a school shooting Friday in Connecticut. Photo by Roland Lane

In the wake of a school shooting last Friday morning that left 26 students and staff dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct., the safety of schools in the United States is once again weighing heavily on the minds of parents and school officials.

The Blaine County School District in a news release issued late Friday afternoon stated that it had received “many calls from concerned parents” regarding the safety of schools in Blaine County. However, district Communications Director Heather Crocker reported Monday that the news release, which informed district patrons of the numerous security improvements that have been implemented in the district over the past few years, seemed to alleviate those concerns.

Several parents contacted by the Idaho Mountain Express on Monday acknowledged that the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy was on their minds but said they were satisfied with recent school security improvements implemented here and that they were not concerned about sending their children back to school this week.

“Not even a little bit,” said Hailey attorney Douglas Nelson, who has a third-grade daughter enrolled at Hailey Elementary School and a sixth-grade son at Wood River Middle School. “I’ve been in those schools lots of times and I think they’re doing a good job with security at those schools.

“If you were concerned about sending your kids to school today, you’ll probably never want your kids to go to college or ride in an airplane or anything. School is one of the safest places for kids to be and the drive to school is more dangerous. You can’t live your life that way or you’ll go completely insane.

“If somebody really wants to do something, they could figure it out, but most of those people aren’t rational and are spur of the moment, but I think it would be hard to get into those schools.”

Hailey resident Lori Hansen, who has daughters enrolled at the middle school and at Wood River High School, said she wasn’t overly concerned about sending her daughters back to school.

“I feel like the measures that the School District has taken at the middle school and the high school make them more secure,” Hansen said. “Now, you have to go through the office to get in. I’ve definitely noticed that it’s different.”

However, Hansen said the School District should consider locking all exterior doors to make it even harder for someone bent on violence to gain access.

“Schools should be locked down during school hours so that people have to be let in,” she said. “When somebody has something like this in mind, to go to a school and shoot someone, they’re going to go to great measures to do what they’re trying to do. That’s why I would make that suggestion to lock the doors. I think that would make them more secure without costing much.”

School District Trustee Paul Bates, who has an 11th-grade son at Wood River High School, said he hadn’t received any calls from concerned parents following the Connecticut shooting.

“I haven’t felt that people were unreasonably concerned,” Bates said Monday, adding that the public seems to be mainly aware of recent security improvements in the district.

Bates, who in the past has been critical of alarmist attitudes toward school security, said he thinks the School District has taken a prudent course in improving security.

“I’m satisfied with the details,” he said. “I don’t know how you make it foolproof, but I’m happy with what we’ve done. And I’m happy with what we’ve done to address the key security issues, the locks and cameras. I don’t think it’s been frivolous and I don’t think it’s been overdone.”

Hailey resident Travis Jones, who has second- and fourth-grade sons at Hailey Elementary School, works for Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault and is frequently at district schools for various training programs.

“I feel like our kids are safe in our schools,” Jones said. “I know that’s something that’s of paramount concern to principals and to the School District.

“You can’t try to mitigate every eventuality because tragedies do happen. But I think our school district has done a good job balancing security with our lifestyle concerns, which is why so many of us live here. I don’t want to be in a place where it feels like our kids are forced into a school that feels like a military institution.”

Terry Smith:

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