Locked doors, anti-gun signage new signs of school security

Locked doors, anti-gun signage new signs of school security

Matt Arenas

Schools, RB included, have increased their focus on security recently.  When students were younger, they might remember a lock down or two in middle school, and early last school year, security did not seem to be a major concern around the school.  Recent school shootings around the country and an unauthorized visitor to RB on off hours last year brought issues of classroom security into sharper focus at RB.

Security cameras, class assemblies, unannounced lock down drills, anti-gun signage on the doors leading into the schools, locked classroom doors, the change of the switchboard into the security office.  What is going on?  Why is this happening?

According to RBEA President Wendy Cassens, with recent school shootings like the one at Sandy Hook and subsequent shootings, the administration does not want to take any chances with the lives of the students and the staff.  The actual team that puts RB’s security plan into place includes Assistant Principal John Passarella and his staff, Superintendent Kevin Skinkis, Principal Pam Bylsma, and the school board.  Cassens acts in her union role to help facilitate discussion about the policy and questions relating to it.

The change has not been hassle free.  Keeping classroom doors locked is a change in practice and has been difficult for some teachers.  However, in order to lock a classroom door, teachers would have to go out into the hallway to lock and close the door, which can be dangerous in a lock down situation.  If the door is already locked, the teacher can simply close the door.  While a locked door could still be breached, studies surrounding school shootings like Sandy Hook and Columbine have suggested that assailants generally search for easy access to victims.  When easy access is not found, they move on – most of the time.

New signs have also appeared on RB’s doors that look like No Smoking signs with firearms in place of cigarettes.  According to Cassens, this recent addition to the doors was not the result of a school board decision but one that came from the state and federal government.  The school must be compliant with the law by posting the signs on the door.  The signs reflect a new concealed carry gun law in Illinois which prohibits legal concealed firearms on school property.

Regarding the change, Cassens said, “It’s better to be proactive than wish we had something in place.  I understand the scrutiny, but perhaps there are other things we could focus on.”

New cameras that have been added to the school in recent years have also been useful to school security in knowing what goes on in the halls when no one is around.  Security camera footage led directly to disciplinary action against those students who vandalized the school before Homecoming this year.

“The cameras register with kids subconsciously the safety idea,” Cassens said.  “Usually, people say, ‘I can’t believe this happened here.’  There’s nothing wrong with being safe.”