Readers offer many suggestions for improving local school security

ROCKWALL -  In the wake of last Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, at which 20 young students and six adults were gunned down, over a dozen readers of The Rockwall News on Facebook offered numerous suggestions for improving school security across Rockwall County. Some suggestions are already in practice; several apparently are not.

Most suggestions dealt with school doors. They included:

  • Replace existing glass doors with steel doors
  • Place metal detectors at all doors
  • Limit the number of entry doors, especially during early morning hours when students are arriving
  • Establish a secure classroom door-locking system that can be activated from the front office
  • Ensure that classroom doors automatically lock when closed, but can be opened without a key from the inside
  • Provide a master key for all rooms to every teacher and staff member

“At my son’s school in Rockwall,” wrote Tammy Straus Taft, “the doors at the end of each hall that are leading to the outside are glass. These exterior doors should not be glass. They should be steel.”

Theresa Heath thinks doors are needed that can’t be penetrated by bullets.

“He wasn’t buzzed in according to this morning’s press conf. he forced his way in, from what’s being said,” she wrote. “He shot the glass out the secure door. I don’t know what the answer is. I think we need internal lobby doors locked down and we need glass that can’t be penetrated by a bullet on those doors. I also think all classrooms need a secure locking system that can be activated from the front office in the event of someone getting into the building so that the school can be made instantly secure.”

Sarah McCutcheon thinks Heath has a great idea.

“Theresa Heath has a great idea about doors being locked down from the front office but how do you implement that into the buildings? Just the cost alone?” asked McCutcheon. “They do lock down drills at RISD. If a shooter wants in the building, they will get in. This young man was buzzed in or shot his way in; either way he was not able to be stopped.”

Jamie Schaller Rice stated she is willing to pay higher taxes so school doors “can’t be penetrated by bullets.”

Heath agreed.

“Yeah, I am good with all that Jamie. Maybe we need more doors throughout the building that are secured, not just at the entry, but I hate the idea of making schools feel like prisons.”

Francine Archivald Collins will pay higher taxes, too, for necessary safety precautions.

”I totally agree with such great ideas but it’s costly and some will not agree to spending that kind of money. They used to have two cops on the high school campus and that was changed due to the budget. People complained about the classes being too full and the need for additional staffing on campuses. My taxes can continue to go up if they implement necessary safety precautions.”

“Classroom doors should automatically lock when closed, but be able to be opened without a key from the inside. Master key for all rooms so every teacher and staff have access to all rooms. Also need to route buzzed-in visitors directly through a security check. Raise my taxes to pay for it – I’m good with that.”

Jennifer Hatfield Taylor wrote “there should also be sturdy locks on all doors to make them secure in the event of a lock-down situation.”

Garrett Rice added: “Yes they should, and The Rockwall news and us parents shouldn’t let them off the hook. If we do, all those children died in vain. Learn and not repeat history. Require routing directly into office. School set on all classroom doors that automatically lock but can be opened from the inside. School resource officers.”

Tina Darrell Campbell added she believes all schools should have metal detectors and an officer on duty.

“All visitors should have to go through the metal detector before entering the school. No matter if it’s a child of a teacher, mother, father, grandparents. I think in some of the larger schools in Dallas even the students are required to go though one.”

“And rotate the officers…sometimes they can get used to not being on alert due to inactivity.”

Charisa Corder Hauser is concerned about someone entering school early when doors are open, so she suggested limiting the number of entry doors and making sure they are manned.

“Right now we have to be buzzed in to get into the school. Also we have to wear name badges that have our picture and location of where we are supposed to be. Both of those implementations are very helpful. I know the bus drivers require even a note from parents if your child is riding a bus home with a friend. At my daughters school they won’t release a child to anyone not on the list given. Also they won’t allow our kids to give them a phone number to call. It has to be one in the system. The police officer on campus is most always seen, as is most faculty. The only time of day I feel someone may have a better chance of just getting in is first thing in morning when all doors are open. Maybe limit more doors and make sure they are manned.”

“This incident in CT is very sad but it is very unique when we are talking safety of schools. This young man was the son of a teacher. Of course he would be buzzed in. Why wouldn’t he be? Who would have thought that he would have done what he did? They had the kids safe. Someone that was to be of trust came in. Not some unknown stranger. Very different story.”

Recommendations were also made for:

  • More armed guards or police at all elementary, middle and high schools
  • Arming teachers and staff – or at least allowing them to carry concealed guns on campus

“At least one police officer (per) elementary school,” wrote Marcelle Safir Prisock. “But I’ve also heard that he broke through a window, instead of going to the door.”

“I also think we need staff on campus that are trained to the highest standard with a firearm and that those firearms be secured in several places on the premises,” wrote Heath.

“We don’t have police officers on our elementary campuses,” added McCutcheon.

Stricter gun laws and reforming mental health were only mentioned by one person.

Kimberly Guynn McClenney wrote, “Improve security, demand stricter gun laws and protection, and reform mental health.”

“Let’s make it harder for the crazies to go crazy on us. Gun law reform, mental health reform, and school security ensured.”

Others suggested a:

  • Mass communication texting system
  • Master ID list of children and parents tied into driver’s licenses

“While watching CNN this morning they mentioned the school used the mass communication text system like most college campuses have. I was curious if we have this system in place in Rockwall?” suggested Laura Anderson Webb.

Shauna Jackson Callaway confirmed Rockwall does. “Yes, Laura, we do!”

Taylor said “there should be a master list comprised of the custodial parent(s) and those the parent has listed on the registration papers, staff, maintenance, etc. When someone attempts to enter the school, this list should be electronically referred to with a driver’s license. If you aren’t on the list, you may not enter.”

“Also, make sure parents are very aware of the protocol to enter the school and asked to be patient, that these are for the protection of their children.”

“Every school should have a security person on campus who monitors the school and area for unauthorized persons on the ground. Nothing crazy, but would be nice to know if someone is just walking around in or out.”

Nicole Moran Watson said she wished she had a suggestion that was reasonable and questioned how we can really prevent someone on a mission to destroy lives.

“It seems there security is very similar to what we have in RISD now & we can push a button & be buzzed in easily. A parent or visitor would normally then walk into the office & check in, give your DL, (but) a person on a mission would run, take advantage & in seconds devastate our lives. How do you prevent that?

Hauser had some kind words for RISD.

“RISD you do good to keep our children’s best interest at the forefront of everything you do. Keep up the good work. As with the Scott family (Racheal Scott), let’s find a way to make this negative a positive.”

George Harris may have summed it all up best when he wrote: “It should not be easier to enter a school than it is to enter an airport, the county courthouse, any federal building or state office building. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. The process, policies and technology to protect our children exists and is in use. We need to fund it and install it in our schools. Is there anything more precious or worth more protecting than our children?

By J.J. Smith




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