Safety Plans Go Right Out the Window

By Samantha Dietel, Current Staff

During an intruder situation, some students at the West Bend High Schools would be instructed to climb out a classroom window.

With national discussion having shifted toward school safety after the shooting in Parkland, Fla., some have wondered how teachers at WBHS plan to ensure the safety of their students if an armed threat were to enter the building. West social studies teacher Aaron Paulin and East Spanish teacher Beth Kastner, who both teach on the schools’ second floor, have long planned for students to escape through designated classroom windows.

“We’re barricading the door and we’re out the window,” Paulin said. “That’s plan A. We’re not going to barricade ourselves in because this drywall isn’t going to stop a shooter.”

Paulin’s students have actually practiced using desks to barricade the classroom door, attempting to make the procedure move as quickly and efficiently as possible.

After barricading the door, Paulin’s plan is for his students to climb out the window. There is a roof below the classroom windows that can act as a landing platform for the students.

“We have the opportunity to get out and get to the roof,” Paulin said. “Go up to the top of the roof, get in the middle so no one can see us and start making phone calls. Or, we’re sliding down the water pipe and we’re running out to the woods. I’m not going to be a sitting duck waiting for someone to come by.”

Veronica Habersetzer, an East ninth grader and one of Paulin’s U.S. history students, feels that Paulin’s safety plan is preferable to other alternatives.

“It’s a lot safer than going towards the target. I mean, that’s the only other escape route that we could basically choose besides going out the door and to where the (intruder) is,” she said.

Kastner has a similar plan for her own students. Because her classroom shares the same hallway as Paulin’s, her window also allows easy access to the same roof.

“I told the students they were in the best place possible because we would go out this window here,” Kastner said. “Step on the desks, step on the bookshelf, and then the roof is right there. And you go down and there’s almost a slide, a building that has an angle on it. Slide down to the end or make a human ladder, and then run to the forest.”

East Spanish teacher Beth Kastner plans for her students to escape through the classroom window in the event of an intruder scenario. Photo taken Thursday by Samantha Dietel, Current Staff.

Students would also have to remove any brightly-colored clothing so that way they would not be easily spotted once outside.

Kastner has also taken additional measures to protect her students besides emphasizing the plan of evacuation. She has placed filing cabinets near the classroom entryway so that they can easily be moved to pin the door shut.

“I even got some oil, where you’re supposed to put that under the door frame so that if (an intruder) is trying to get in, they slip and fall,” Kastner said.

One of her students, East junior Sommer Schneider, admitted that if an intruder were to enter the building, she would feel safer in Kastner’s classroom than another.

“I feel like other teachers don’t really have a plan, so I think I would feel safer with her because she has it kind of planned out and has somewhat of an idea of what she would do,” Schneider said.

East junior Reilly Orth, another of Kastner’s Spanish students, feels similarly.

“I think she is definitely more aware of the fact that could happen and that she has a plan for it in case it were,” he said.

However, West science teacher Paul DeLain believes that classroom safety plans should be kept more private.

“I think that teachers that do describe (safety plans for an intruder situation) are missing the point of those strategies,” DeLain said. “It should be a secret. Your students should know, or the command for your students should be simple enough that they can do it. But we don’t reveal battle plans before the battle.”

Paulin feels that there is still work to be done to improve safety in the classroom.

“Sadly, I think we need to take it upon ourselves to drill it more,” he said. “So again, it becomes practice, it becomes instinct. And I think the problem that we have is, for seven hours a day, (the students) are in seven different places. So in theory, (the students) should be practicing what to do in each of those areas.”

Paulin strongly believes that practicing and reviewing different safety procedures should be much more frequent, even if it takes time out of classes.

“I would think in the name of safety, it’s understood if we lose five minutes of class time to review what we got to do,” he said.

(This article is the final part of a series of stories about school safety. Top image: West social studies teacher Aaron Paulin, equipped with his shovel that hangs in the classroom every day, demonstrates how a student would reach the window in an effort to escape the classroom during an intruder situation. Photo taken Friday by Samantha Dietel, Current Staff.)

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