Community Q&A planned for March 22
By Samantha Dietel, Current Staff
“If you see or hear something, say something” is a phrase that has lately been given a great emphasis at the West Bend High Schools.
In light of the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., students, parents and other West Bend community members have wondered how the district is planning to respond to the calls for better safety in schools. Several steps to improve the safety of WBHS have already been taken since the attack, including plans for a community discussion about safety that will be held by the school board March 22.
“We will be hosting a community conversation regarding school safety,” said Tiffany Larson, president of the school board. “There will be a question and answer period fielded by our administration, police officers and others who are part of the safety/security team.”
The Law Enforcement and School District Community Forum starts at 6 p.m. March 22 in the Badger Middle School cafeteria.
According to director of facilities Dave Ross, who oversees the district safety committee, surveys were to be sent to every building administrator in an effort to establish a baseline of needs that the district may have in terms of safety.
“Once I have the baseline established, we will begin to address the needs that show up as a result of the survey,” Ross said. “This will be done in conjunction with local law enforcement and emergency services on a ‘best practices’ basis.”
The district safety committee is also in the process of updating the emergency response manuals, which detail the planned courses of action in the event of a crisis situation.
“We are trying to make sure that we are up to date because it has been a while since we’ve really, truly reviewed those processes that we have in place,” said East assistant principal Tyler Wood, who is a representative on the safety committee. “One of the tasks this year is to make sure that the manual is up to date in a way that makes sense for us now. We have the procedures in place, but can we make them more clear, can we make them more efficient.”
“It has been a while since we’ve truly reviewed those crisis processes that we have in place.”
– Tyler Wood, East assistant principal
Orchestra director Seth Matuszak noted that he has recently had to emphasize a stricter policy to keep the rear doors locked in the mornings. For music rehearsals that take place before school hours, the doors are allowed to be unlocked for a brief period of time to allow students to enter. According to Matuszak, staff members regularly check that the exterior doors are locked.
“Sometimes we have to let students in early in the morning for Pops orchestra rehearsals or if any of us have any sort of rehearsal early in the morning, so there’s a very small window of time that we have the door open around a little after six in the morning,” Matuszak said. “But after about 10 minutes or so, we have to lock the door. So we’re responsible for that. I’ve seen other school district employees check doors, making sure that they’re secure.”
WBHS recognized the First Amendment rights of students during the national school walkout that took place Wednesday. Students that wished to participate in the event were not penalized, but were only expected to return to class in a timely manner.
The high schools and the police department collaborated to provide some surveillance for the event and ensure the safety of the students involved.
“Those students who wish to participate in the walkout will be monitored and supervised by school staff to ensure that any walkout is safe and orderly,” assistant superintendent Laura Jackson said in a letter to the families of West Bend students prior to the walkout. “In addition, we are working with the West Bend Police Department to ensure the safety of students to assemble peacefully in predesignated areas.”
However, the media was not allowed to enter the school grounds to cover the walkout. The decision was made to try to keep the event as controlled as possible, according to West principal Ralph Schlass.
West assistant principal Patrick O’Connor stressed that school safety has always been a primary concern at the high schools.
“Our priority has always been school safety because we’re here to learn, and if you’re not safe, you can’t learn,” he said.
(This article is part of an ongoing series of stories about school safety. Top image: Patrick O’ Connor, West assistant principal, and John Graf, Green Tree Elementary School principal, supervise the student-led protest on Wednesday. Photo by Jessica Steger, Editor in Chief.)