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School Safety

February 1, 2013

We’re so busy being relaxed around here that we sometimes we forget that the so-called “real world” exists.

But sometimes that world nudges up against us, such as in our preparation—or lack of it—when it comes to school safety.
 
It’s about time we fix the current safety plan, not that we’re alone in this. School districts all over the country got a nasty wake-up call last December, and it is about time.
 
In the Columbine High School tragedy in 1999, the Littleton, Colo., first responders were criticized for being too slow, even though they were on the scene within minutes of that tragedy.
 
Since then—it has been nearly 14 years—police and school officials throughout the country have been busy re-drafting school safety plans with the help of the federal Department of Homeland Security, among other agencies.
 
The massacre at Newtown, Conn., last December seems to have caused many school districts and police departments to evaluate what “normal” security should be.
 
Superintendent Rich Boccia and Police Chief Dan Watson see eye-to-eye on many of the next steps Mammoth Unified needs to take in order to make sure we’re doing everything possible to protect our kids, staff, and faculty.
 
To agree that an updated plan is put in place is one thing; to actually follow through is another.
 
For example, our high school has no air conditioning and during the hot afternoons in September and June, nobody thinks twice about propping open a door or two to catch the mountain breezes. The same thing goes with open windows during the hot months.
 
Mammoth itself is a town where some residents haven’t locked their doors in years; locking the schools’ doors during classes is something of a mental jolt.
 
As for the winter months, doors on one side of the high school have been routinely unlocked to help the kids get out of the blizzards and into their classrooms.
 
This is a good time to get out of Mayberry and into the real world.
 
Who, exactly, calls 911? Who is responsible for telling staff and faculty where the safest places are in any given room?
 
Who would take care of a mass urge to flee when things are unsafe. What is unsafe in the first place? Where are secure safety routes in the event of a building evacuation? Who would be at the command post? Where would the command post be?
 
Another concern is what to do with parents. As Watson himself said at a school board meeting on Jan. 24: “Any time as incident like this occurs, their natural reaction is to respond to the scene.
 
“Our primary purpose would be to neutralize the situation, dealing with a bunch of very concerned parents,” he said. “That’s always a problem. We’d have a huge, mass, influx of people coming in. They don’t want to be told what to do. They want to go find their child and make sure they’re safe.
 
“There needs to be some discussion about how they’re going to be dealt with, who’s going to handle that, what’s the role for the school district versus law enforcement.”
 
In addition to an updated plan, we need to practice, practice, and then practice some more.
 
This should have been put in place years ago. 
 
But in Mammoth, where we pretend to be above it all sometimes, it is we ourselves who help create a clear and present danger.
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