Could a tragedy happen in our schools?
COULD A TRAGEDY HAPPEN IN OUR ALPINE SCHOOLS?
By Chuck Taylor
For The Alpine Sun
This past weeks horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT. brings into perspective, the possibility that small towns and schools are not any safer than if they were in large metropolitan areas.
Here in Alpine, all of our school grounds are open with only a sign asking visitors to check in at the office.
We don’t have fences, surveillance or an armed police officer or deputy assigned to patrol our schools on a full time basis. Are we living with a false sense of security?
In response to the horrible slaughter of 20 “babies” and 6 heroic teachers, some school districts around the country have taken severe actions to protect their students. A District in Indiana now has an armed police officer on each school campus from the time school opens until close. Another District has installed video surveillance in every area of their schools and linked the video through the internet in such a way that a police car can tap in and view the entire school and it’s classrooms. Some Districts are rushing to install fencing with the thought that although a fence won’t prevent someone from getting in, it will slow them down and give law enforcement more time to act. The Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles Police Department cannot post an officer at every school due to budget constraints, however as the January 3rd each elementary and middle school will receive random visits on a daily basis by the police officers assigned to the beat the school is located in.
So, what are the plans for Alpine? We met with Tom Pellegrino, the Superintendent of our district to find out what measures are currently in place and what additional security provisions are being contemplated. Currently there are lockdown procedures in place as well as some other directives which Pellegrino said would have to remain confidential so as not to publicize them to any would be intruder. Pellegrino is meeting this week with Lt. Sanchez, the commanding officer here at the Alpine Sheriffs Department. Sanchez plans to tour all of our schools and conduct a security check and look for vulnerabilities.
The Superintendent is considering putting two way tinting on school windows where people inside can look out, but those on the outside cannot look in, much like the type of window tinting banned in California for your automobile. He is also considering installing silent alarms within the classrooms. Another possibility being explored is video surveillance of school grounds and parking lots with an employee monitoring for unusual behaviors. Years ago, the San Diego Sheriffs Dept. had a dedicated juvenile officer who visited the schools on a regular basis. That position was eliminated due to budget considerations. Superintendent Pellegrino has been in contact with the Coronado School District who conducted a 6 month, $60,000 study headed up by retired Navy Seals to identify and correct any vulnerabilities within their schools. Coronado has kindly forwarded that information to Alpine for study and possible implementation.
In the meanwhile, in light of the Newtown massacre Alpine’s School district will assure students that they are safe and that their school is well prepared to take care of them at all times. They will maintain structure and stability within the schools and probably not conduct testing during the few days after a tragic event. Provide Teachers and parents with what to say and do for their children both a home and at school. Have teachers provide information directly to students in the classrooms rather than over public address systems. Refer children who exhibit extreme anxiety or anger issues to mental health counselors in the school and inform the parents. Provide an outlet for students who desire to help and monitor or restrict scenes of violent aftermaths.
Superintendent Pellegrino says that he wants to do everything possible to insure the safety and security of our schools without turning them into prisons. If the recent past teaches us any lessons, his wishes may not work out. In the meantime, just 6 days after this most horrible event, we can be assured that our school district is studying these problems very closely.