Police, USD 204 schools say new program already underway for school safety
Last week’s tragic events at a Connecticut elementary school served as a reminder of why Bonner Springs police and schools have been working together this past semester to revise security procedures.
In the months prior to Friday’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which resulted in the deaths of 20 young students and six adults, Bonner Springs police and USD 204 officials had been in the process of adopting a Standard Response Protocol system, which will allow schools and police to work together in response to various emergency situations.
“It’s timely all of the sudden, after the tragedy there in Connecticut,” Bonner Springs Police Chief John Haley said. “Certainly a program like this addresses some of the concerns that would arise after a situation like that.”
Rick Moulin, district safety officer and vice principal at Bonner Springs High School, said Friday’s events caused the district to further review safety plans with staff, and the elementary schools sent messages to parents to inform them of the safety program.
At the high school, Moulin said, they have made sure teachers are available if students have questions.
“The main thing is kids know that we’re here to listen if they’re having a tough time with the tragedy, because most of the time kids’ first response is to wonder what would happen if that kind of thing happened in my community or to me,” he said.
The Standard Response Protocol system the district now uses was developed by the I Love U Guys Foundation, which was founded as a result of a 2006 hostage incident at a high school in Bailey, Colo. The father of a student killed in that incident created the foundation and developed the protocol system, which Bonner Springs Police Sgt. Mark Zaretski learned about at a conference. Since gaining approval from Haley, the city and the school district, Zaretski has been working with schools to get the protocol in place.
The protocol calls for four standard responses — lockout, lockdown, evacuate and shelter — that can take place in the school depending on the type of incident, whether it is an intruder, an emergency occurring outside the school or a weather incident.
Haley said the advantage is the four possible responses meet any given emergency scenario, rather than planning responses for a variety of emergency types. It also gives school officials and police a common vocabulary for emergency situations.
In an incident, school or police officials would select one of the four responses, followed by a directive:
• A lockout, followed by the directive “secure the perimeter,” is the protocol to safeguard students and staff in a building. Haley said police conducting a manhunt near the school would be a situation in which this might be used.
• A lockdown uses the directive “locks, lights, out of sight” to secure individual rooms and keep students quiet and out of sight from someone looking in through the door. This is the response that would be used in an incident similar to the Sandy Hook events.
• The evacuate response would be followed by a location, either inside or outside of the school, to move students and staff.
• The shelter response would be followed by the cause for taking shelter, such as a tornado, and a method, such as drop, cover and hold. This could be combined with the evacuate response to note a specific shelter location.
Haley said it has taken a lot of work on Zaretski’s behalf to get the protocol in place, partially because the district has schools in two other cities besides Bonner Springs. School staff members have been trained, taking two online incident command classes offered through FEMA, and each school has revamped its safety plans. The next step is to have practice scenarios in the schools, he said.
Moulin said implementation of the protocols has strengthened the school district’s already good relationship with local law enforcement, and the district is doing everything it can to make sure students are safe.
“The police department has gone above and beyond helping develop this safety plan and working to train students and staff,” Moulin said. “We feel like we have a solid plan in place.”