By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
The Mt. Pleasant Community School District is taking proactive measures in securing their campuses and scheduling time for the Mt. Pleasant Police Department to talk to students about the seriousness of making threats against the school as the 2018?2019 school year begins.
Following two threats made by students at the middle school in May, Superintendent John Henriksen wants to proactively address how statements said in jest can be considered threatening. Henriksen said he is going to let the Police Department remind the students in a ?positive way? that their words will not be taken lightly.
Lieutenant Lyle Murray, with the Mt. Pleasant Police Department, will be stepping into classrooms in a few weeks to encourage students to use good judgment when it comes to saying things that might imply a threat against the school.
?Kids are kids,? high school principal Todd Liechty said. ?Sometimes they do things that are funny in today?s environment. It?s not funny, and we have to respond accordingly.?
Middle School principal Nathan Lange said school administrators will always follow up and do their due diligence, whether it is an in-school investigation or taking it to the police department. Staff members are cognitive of red flags and when to report things students say or do, Lange said. ?It?s a reminder for all of us that we need to choose our words wisely,? he said.
Murray is planning on discussing the threats made last year and what comments school administrators, the police department, students or parents may hear or see on social media that could be considered threatening. He also will refresh their memory on active shooter training.
In addition to difficult conversations, security measures for buildings across the district are getting an upgrade. While main doors will be unlocked as students arrive for the day, during business hours, visitors will have to be buzzed into the building.
An intercom will alert staff in the office that a visitor is requesting access. The office staff will be able to see and talk to the person at the door before they will be allowed in. During a school board meeting on Monday, Aug. 23, Lange said he has already received positive feedback about the system from parents.
?It?s on everybody?s radar,? Lange said. ?It?s our top priority to keep our students safe and secure.?
Liechty, who said there are a lot of people who walk into the high school and go where they want to instead of checking into the office first, said the secure doors will ?absolutely? keep students safer. ?This way, we?ll have a better understanding of who is in the building and what they?re doing,? he said.
?There will be some learning from our parents, teachers and on our end also,? Henriksen said. ?We?ll have to do some refining as we move into the year ? what works, what doesn?t and how we can make this safer and more efficient.?
Doors inside the schools are being replaced as well with locks that lock from the inside, and new security cameras are up throughout all the elementary schools. Previously, the district had no cameras in any of the elementary schools, Henriksen said.
Another security measure that was updated was the emergency procedures manual teachers have in every classroom. While every classroom was already outfitted with a manual, Henriksen said the district combed through it, taking out unnecessary information and keeping only what is pertinent to crisis situations.
The binders now include emergency instruction sheets for how to do an ?all-call? via the phone system, lockdown procedures and campus safety rally points.
An all-call allows teachers to get through to all phones in the building through the speakerphone system. The lockdown procedure explains with bullet points what to do in a lockdown situation in the classroom or in a common area such as the cafeteria, library or gym. The campus rally points are where classes should meet if they had to leave the building and how to reunite students with their families if they are taken off school grounds.
Liechty thanked the community and school board for the opportunity to keep the school more secure. ?It?s an expensive endeavor, and they?ve been able to step up and that says a lot about the community,? he said.
As the school year gets underway, Murray touched on other school security issues, urgently reminds everyone in the community to drive carefully. While distracted driving is discussed in driver education, Murray said it?s a good reminder for teenagers who may now be driving themselves to school this year. It?s also a good reminder for parents and other drivers to pay attention to stop signs and slow down where students may be walking.
Murray encouraged parents drop their children off at the designated school drop-off sites. ?It takes a little longer, but it?s a little safer and what everyone wants,? he said.
Classes for students in the Mt. Pleasant Community School District began today, Thursday, Aug. 23.