Recent changes were implemented prior to Parkland shooting
By Samantha Dietel, Current Staff
For students shifting from class to class at the West Bend High Schools, it’s easy to miss the numerous cameras that monitor each of the hallways.
In recent years, the West Bend School District has placed an increased focus on the security of its high schools to ensure the safety of the students and staff within the building. But after a gunman took the lives of 17 students and faculty last month at a high school in Parkland, Fla., there has been a heightened number of inquiries regarding the safety at WBHS.
Some of these questions can be answered by reviewing the steps that the high schools took prior to the attack in Parkland.
According to East principal Darci VanAdestine, not only do the high schools have internal and external cameras surveying the campus, but there are also two police liaison officers present daily. The police department actually works very closely with the high schools.
“Each year the high schools and police department meet at the beginning of the year to go over logistics, updates and procedures to ensure we are all on the same page in relation to safety and security,” VanAdestine said. “Follow up conversations are frequent throughout the school year as well.”
Special key fobs have also been implemented at the high schools for the past three years. The key fobs allow staff members to enter the building through specific doors, and the fob reader is then able to track who is coming and going.
Two of the entrances, one on the West side and the other on the East, also have a buzzer that visitors must use before entering the building. Through the intercom, a visitor must give their name and purpose to be allowed inside. They have to provide identification when they sign in, as well as return to the same check-in point before they can exit the school. The greeters’ desks at the entrances provide added security as well.
Last June, the high school staff received ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training that put them through different intruder scenarios in which they either had to hide, fight or run. In January, district support staff also went through a similar experience with the ALICE training. The staff members that did not wish to practice the simulations had the option to stay in the auditorium, while those that did were recorded for everyone else to watch.
“We watched people hide in the room and come up with tricks and strategies for staying put and staying quiet and securing the room,” West science teacher Paul DeLain said. “Then we saw scenarios where the best option was to fight, so we literally saw teachers jumping on ALICE team members and subduing them and controlling the gun or the hostile environment. And then we saw scenarios where the best option was to run.”
West English teacher Danielle Konstanz found the ALICE training to be valuable.
“In an event like that, your body more than likely is going to freeze, and if you don’t think about the different possibilities or your different options, then your body is not going to be ready for that response,” she said. “Overall, I enjoyed the experience because it allowed my body and my brain to practice ‘what if’ scenarios. Of course, if anything were to ever happen, I can’t say for sure what I would do, but I know that I would have the ability to at least run through the scenario as it is, and decide what is in the best interest of my students and myself.”
The high schools also practice different emergency procedures. Emergency command placards are posted throughout the building and list the instructions for the four different emergencies: hold, lockdown, evacuate and shelter.
In December, some teachers became hall monitors during their supervision period in an attempt to reduce the number of wandering students in the hallways. This change offers more surveillance during the school day.
The district safety committee also meets frequently to review and revise safety procedures. East assistant principal Tyler Wood and West assistant principal Jennifer Potter are both representatives of WBHS on the committee. The last meeting was Feb. 19, and according to director of facilities Dave Ross, who also oversees the committee, the group generally meets every other month. There are also many subcommittees within it that focus on specific tasks and areas of safety.
“Those subcommittees are kind of our task or goal-oriented pieces,” Wood said. “We’ve got one that’s safe in the technology realm of things, creating a safe physical environment, mental health and trauma. We’ve got families and students and staff feeling safe and how can we create that safe environment.”
West principal Ralph Schlass feels that the students of WBHS are safe at school.
“I feel our students are very safe,” he said. “Now, I have no guarantee that something can’t happen. But I would hope that because of the way our community and our parents raise children, and the way that we educate children, that students wouldn’t resort to such an extreme act. If they’re feeling depressed, if they’re feeling like they’re an outcast, if they’re being bullied, they have been told to report it, and we treat all those situations very seriously. We get students the help they need when they do.”
(This article is part of an ongoing series of stories about school safety. Top image: West Bend School District employees engage in ALICE training. Photo by John Ehlke, courtesy of the Washington County Daily News.)