The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

April 23, 2013

Keeping watch: School district leaders hear safety report

By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — The Clinton School Board on Monday learned what the district does to provide a safe environment for all students, staff and community members.

Bluff Elementary School principal Mark Bloom, school resource officer Matt Lorenzen and Clinton High School teacher Mike Halac explained to board members what the District’s Schools Safety Committee has accomplished, including how the new ALICE system will help the district be a safer place.

ALICE, which stands for alert, lock down, inform, counter and evacuate, gives students and staffs options when faced with an emergency situation, Halac told board members.

“Sometimes locking down is the best situation. There’s no question about it,” Halac said. “But there’s also situations where there’s somebody in the building, which we’ve seen so much in the news lately. We want them to have options for that.”

The first step in ALICE is to alert using clear and concise language to convey the type of event and location. Students and staff will also be encouraged to use 911 in the case of emergency events. Lockdown could also be used in cases where someone may be perceived as a threat before they enter the building, Halac explained.

The third step is to inform and keep accurate and constant information coming.

Lorenzen explained that the fourth step, counter, does not mean students or staff will be encouraged to combat an armed assailant, but that they will be taught to use diversions to get out of the dangerous situation as implied by the final step: evacuate.

“It’s really just basic common sense that if we have a threat in a building, we want to get them out,” Lorenzen saidsaidsaid said.

District officials are implementing ALICE in all schools with a drill planned for the beginning of next school year.

The district takes some precautions to increase safety everyday. For instance, the doors to classrooms are always to be locked and a teacher should be opening it when someone wants to enter the room. Also, all buildings have locked facilities with buzz-in and check-in procedures.

Building safety audits are performed almost daily by the school resource officers in the buildings throughout the District, Lorenzen said.

“I do safety audits within the building simply just by walking around, checking the exterior, interior, ingress, egress parts, those primary locations just to make sure everything’s secured,” Lorenzen said.

That information is then fed to the building administrator, then to the Safety Committee, which meets three to four times a year. The group consists of representatives from District administration, the Clinton Police Department, Clinton Fire Department, Clinton County Emergency Management, plant services, the school nurse and the IT department.

Safety audits have also been performed by the Office of Homeland Security, which made some recommendations as to how the district can increase safety. The Clinton County Emergency Management Director also made suggestions for the district following a tornado drill.

Bloom pointed out the district has a crisis procedure manual near every phone in every building. The district also has procedures in place to reunite parents and students in the case where a school is evacuated.

He said the information presented to board members was part of an ongoing process of improving the district’s safety procedures.

“I just wanted to give you an idea of the things that go on yearly to ensure that we have a process to discuss and that we are trying to be on the very proactive cutting edge of keeping our kids and our staff safe,” Bloom said.

One of the areas the district continues to work on is what a staff member, student or parent should do if they are in the building, but not in a classroom when the school goes into lock down.

“We’re giving them the tools to find the nearest room, identify yourself and get in,” Bloom said.

Superintendent Deb Olson said this summer the focus would be custodians, kitchen staff and people that might find themselves in a similar situation.

Board member Jim McGraw asked what safety measures are taken to deal with potential crimes that mirror those that have made national headlines such as the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

Lorenzen said that is part of the reason why the safety policies are examined as frequently.

“What that does when the situation happens it just forces you to re-evaluate and look at your safety plans that are in place, look at these manuals, to make sure that we’re current with what is maybe trending, if you will,” Lorenzen said.

Board member Devin Guillory asked what the district did to address the issue of a troubled student that might become a danger to others within the school.

Olson said the response to intervention system, Facebook monitoring, guidance counselors and students reporting one another are measures used to prevent these situations. She cited one particular case that potentially protected the Clinton High community.

“I know that a year ago, Christmas time, there was a threat that was on Facebook right after Christmas vacation before we were coming back to school. A high school student threatening that they were going to come and they were going to bring a gun and they were going to shoot somebody. Well that Sunday night they got a search warrant and they went to that kid’s house. Everything was taken care of and nobody knew about it. We take everything as a credible threat,” Olson said.