Angela Brandt Havre Daily News email@example.com
With Monday’s school shooting in Joplin, Mo., and two others within the last few weeks, a question arises what steps are Hi-Line schools taking to prevent or handle such an incident in say Joplin, Mont.? Principal for Chester/Joplin- Inverness schools Pam Graff said all grades, kindergarten through 12th, practice lockdown drills. Graff said pupils’ and the staff’s safety definitely are of utmost importance but the children should not be frightened to attend their classes. In order to keep the students informed but not scared, topics of school violence are discussed at length for a better understanding. “If you are fearful then it is difficult to learn,” she said. After Monday morning’s incident in which a 13-year-old student wearing a mask and a black trenchcoat fired a single shot shot from an assault rifle into the ceiling at his Missouri school, Chester/Joplin-Inverness students shared their reactions to the violence, Graff said. Havre Public Schools dealt with the shooting similarly, superintendent Kirk Miller said. Havre schools operate on the “ABC’s” of safety, he said. The “A” stands for awareness. Miller said instructors are trained to be proactive in the explanation of events as well as safety protocals. “B” is for balance. “One of the main charges for this year is to help students feel connected to school, their teachers and others. The building of relationships can reduce the chances of an inappropriate event,” Miller said. Havre educators are instructed on varied issues that can cause rifts between students and others such as bullying and differing economic backgrounds. The letter “C” for control is the final part of Havre schools’ safety letters. Schools not only have their own students to worry about because two of the latest violent episodes were outside intruders. A 53-year-old Colorado man who killed himself after sexually assaulting a group of high school girls and fatally shooting a 16- year-old girl at the school on Sept. 27 and five Pennsyvania girls were shot to death with another five seriously wounded on Oct. 2 after a 32-year-old milk truck driver took them hostage in their Amish, one-room schoolhouse. Miller said the facilities have “strong visitor policies” with limIted access in Havre Middle School and Havre High School. Any visitors, he said, including parents must check in with the front desk before venturing throughout the campus. The same is true at Harlem Public Schools, which also have strict guest policies. Harlem middle and high school students participate in mock lock-down drills throughout the year as well. “Our No. 1 priority is safety,” principal Terry Bolen said. Havre schools also hold an array of emergency drills throughout the school year including lock downs, which involve Havre law enforcement. A more expansive drill in Harlem, including the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office, the Fort Belknap tribal council, local fire departments and others, Bolen said, is in the works. “We’re trying to do our best to avoid any intruders,” Bolen said. Graff agreed. Her school building also has limited access with the two main doors, which are monitored by staff, being the only ones unlocked during the school day. A Livingston high school began comparable actions after a student was suspended Friday for bringing a gun to school on multiple occassions. As in Harlem and Havre schools, all guests to Chester/Joplin-Inverness must sign in at the front desk. “We are making sure the staff is more observant of people in and out of the school. We try to be very weary of our school security,” Graff said. Teachers and other staff members “keep a real close tab,” she said, and pay specific attention to vehicles parked near the school and other red flags. Students and employees of the school learned signals to warn others of suspicious or threatening activities. Miller said the HPS safety committee is continuously looking for other avenues by which to prevent or cope with violence in school. A few options under investigation by the committee are video cameras and alarm systems in the facilities and a magnetic lock system with reprogramable keys similar in size and shape to credit cards like those used at hotels. “It needs to be determined if those ideas brought to the table are appropriate and don’t imped on learning yet allow safety,” Miller said. If approved by the Havre school board, these possible adds to the districts could be in place as early as next school year, he said.