St. Louis area police and school administrators are taking security measures in schools to the next level, even to the point of perhaps conducting training for teachers about how to disarm intruders and negotiate with shooters who invade schools.
St. Louis County Police Department officers and members of the Safe Schools Partnership met Thursday morning at the Rockwood School District Administrative Annex in Eureka to continue discussions about how to bolster future safety in schools. St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch said police teams are offering to survey the crises and emergency plans for the corresponding schools they service, especially to ensure everyone involved is operating from the same premises.
"This meeting was about gathering information, and giving people who don't always get to talk to each other, a chance to share details," Fitch said.
He said many school leaders have outlined new initiatives, but are trying to determine how to pay for them.
A large portion of the meeting was devoted to various school districts sharing their crises plans. Organizers indicated the majority of St. Louis area school districts were represented at the meeting, including St. Charles, Riverview Gardens, Parkway, Hazelwood, Clayton, Mehlville, Valley Park and Pattonville.
Chief Communications Officer Kim Cranston, from the hosting Rockwood School District for Thursday's meeting, said more than 150 representatives attended.
Capt. Kenneth Williams, commander of the St. Louis County Police Department-Wildwood (6th) Precinct and a coordinator with Rockwood School District as St. Louis County's largest district, said the meeting also focused on "pre-event planning," specifically what school staffs can do during the 10 to 12 minutes it takes police to reach the building after a dangerous incident begins.
Cooperating School Districts Executive Director Don Senti said decisions about school safety and security should be left up to the local school board and local law enforcement. "This is not a 'one size fits all' issue."
Safe Schools Partnership of St. Louis County was launched during the 1998-1999 school year. It is a collaborative agreement between the county police department, area police departments, school districts, and other concerned agencies, with the sole goal of assuring safety for children.
The group met in December, shortly after the Newtown, CT, shooting tragedy for an open discussion of what changes, if any, respective school districts would like to see regarding security protocols.
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School security changes implemented since December include:
- St. Louis County Police increased their presence at the elementary schools for which they provide security.
- Police are making random visits to schools and walk-throughs.
- Police officers are present at the beginning and end of school days.
Fitch tells Patch the next Safe Schools Partnership meeting will be about "doable actions" districts can implement and how to better address challenges that stem from mental health-related issues and people who have the propensity to be violent.