HSE School Board Candidancy

As many people know, I’m one of the few (if not the only) people that regularly attend the school board meetings that is not either on the board or paid staff of the school system. I attend these meetings for a variety of reasons; however, the primary reason is because it is a source of firsthand information related to our schools and our city; information that impacts our kids. Our kids spend roughly a third of their day within the school system, so the decisions made by this group of people impact their lives in both positive and negative ways. With a budget twice that of the city’s, the school also has the potential to impact not only our kids, but the city around us.

I’ve been regularly asked if I will be running for a position on the Hamilton Southeastern School Board this election. While there are still a couple of days left to register, at this time I do not plan to run for a position, and thus will not be registering.

Over the years I’ve watched and noted decisions made by the school board, raised questions, and called out issues. I’ve done that without a seat at the table and plan to continue to do so. After all, it’s our kids that they are messing with. 

HSE School Safety Update

When it comes to security, Hamilton Southeastern Schools have done a lot since 2012. This includes adding secured vestibules, securing the school perimeters, the use of fobs, and more.

There continues to be a knee jerk reaction around the country when it comes to security. Unfortunately, but there isn’t just one solution to solve security in our schools. The hand-held metal detectors that the governor offered are starting to come arrive at schools; however, these are a solution fraught with more issues than even the full sized metal detectors. Even so, schools are snatching these up.

While people will often want to point to a single person to be responsible for security, HSE schools have changed the focus to empower everyone in the district all the way down to students.  In addition to students, this includes parents, staff, and members of the community including police officers, firemen, and other public departments.

Regardless of who is empowered, at the end of the day, we must deal with the “Why”. Even though many people are looking for instantaneous results on what should be done to secure schools, the issues won’t be solved until there is an understanding of why the violence is happening.

For Hamilton Southeastern Schools (HSE), additional changes are being proposed for the 2018-19 school year. HSE’s security protocols and policies are already considered among the best in the state of Indiana with HSE schools being considered a leader. Even so, safety is a topic that will receive a continuing review and changes.

I’ve written on safety in previous articles, so the list of core safety topics that were raised at the most recent school board meeting should be no surprise. The list of changes for 2018-19 include:

  • Metal detector wands
    The governor of Indiana provided metal detector wands to Indiana schools at not cost to the schools. They offer to provide one wand for every 250 students. HSE schools ordered 91 wands. (Carmel-Clay schools only ordered 30). While these wands are coming into the schools now, the principals have been told to keep these in the boxes. There is the potential for legal liability if wands are used in the wrong way. In addition to the legal issues, there also needs to be training as well as a definition of how they will and won’t (as well as can and can’t) be used.
  • Additional School Resource Officers (SROs)
    One of the biggest of focus for school security is School Resource Officers (SROs). As mentioned in a previous article, HSE had seven SROs in 2017-18. The plan for 2018-19 is to add two additional SROs for a total of nine. One of these has already been hired and has started at New Britton Elementary school. The other SRO has been identified, but needs his current position back-filled before they can move forward. As mentioned in a previous article, SRO positions are not ones that can be filled quickly.For HSE, the overall cost of having nine SROs will be roughly a million dollars with the school district covering half (~$497,000) of this. The school will get a $50,000 Safe Schools Grant that will also go to funding the SROs. The breakdown of this cost is spread across salary, benefits, training costs, and incidentals such as uniforms.
  • Additional ALICE Training
    The HSE schools have been doing ALICE training since 2011 and will continue the training with renewed vigor. ALICE training is done within the schools at in age appropriate manner–what is done at the high school is not the same as what is done at the elementary level.
  • Ongoing Safety Audits
    The SROs did physical safety audits for all of the schools this summer.
  • Continued Mental Health Focus
    Thirteen therapists are staffed in the HSE school buildings as part of a program with Community Health Network. A fourteenth therapist will be added in 2018-19 to address a request for more help at the high school level. We have struggling kids, and the use of mental health services has the potential to change the “why” portion of security issues.
  • Trauma Informed Care
    This is empathetic practices that works to inform teachers so that they can understand the issues specific kids might have.
  • Identity Safe Schools – Equity & Inclusion
    When students walk into the HSE schools, they need to be in a judgement free zone. Kids have different needs, and we don’t want the stress of an individual student to exceed their coping mechanisms. We want to get to any kids that are stressed or have issues at the ground level so they can get the support they need.
  • Parental Advisory Committee
    While there have been a couple of meetings around security, there is going to be a more formal parental advisory committee formed. Many people have expressed interest in being part of a committee, so a group will be formed to provide a cross section across all 21 schools. Potential candidates for being part of such committee are being vetted to make sure the right representation is established.

These are the areas that were mentioned. Part of the security process is to not share everything that is happening to secure the schools. As such, the above can be seen as the minimum updates for the 2018-19 school year. Of course, the most important thing that was stated for securing our schools was the continuing efforts to forge relationships with parents, students, and the community to keep communication open and everyone aware. The key to safety is to know that the answer to “Who is involved with school safety?” is all of us.

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Discipleship Training

I’ve been working on a number of projects. This includes stepping into a publisher role and publishing two books:




These books take a question and answer workbook format for learning about the core fundamentals of Christian discipleship. The second book on Christian Outreach provides scriptural insight into doing outreach. With these books, you can use scripture references to answer questions on the given topics. These questions guide you to not only understand the topic, but also help you understand the Biblical source for the answers. For those that prefer to shortcut the workbook process, the second half of each book contains the answers and scripts.

Both of these books are available now on Amazon.com for under $10 each.

These are the first of two books that I’ve published. My intent is to continue to publish books for not only others (such as these), but also my own publications. If you need editing services or are looking to get your own book published (for your own use or to sell publicly), I’m able to provide services for a relatively low fee!

If you are interested in quantity purchase of the above two books (10 copies or more of any topic) to use in your small group or other gathering, then contact me. I might be able to get you a discount.

School Safety: Arming Teachers

I’ve now written a couple of articles on securing our schools. Writing on this topic would be incomplete without also covering the topics of putting guns into the hands of teachers. The idea of arming teachers has been suggested by many people, including the President of the United States. Unlike the President, there are many people and organizations that are actually qualified to comment.

While I’m not one of the qualified sources, I am qualified to share what I’ve learned from a few of them. Simply put, many qualified sources have stated that putting guns into the hands of teachers is not the right decision when it come to the overall safety and well-being of the kids.

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) released a press release on the topic of arming teachers. In their release, they clearly stated that they are against the idea arming teachers with guns. This organization is focused on getting specially trained police officers into schools, so arming teachers would reduce the need for their services. This is why it is more important to look at the reasons that indicate why arming teachers doesn’t make sense.

Where’s the Gun?

If as school decides to arm their teachers, then that raises the question of where will guns be kept? For the gun to be useful, it must be readily accessible. Most important, however, is that any guns must also be absolutely secure. Keeping a gun secure while maintaining its accessibility in a classroom setting would be a monumental challenge, especially in the lower grade levels where teachers tend to be more actively engaged with the kids and where the kids are active within the room.

Police and school resource officers keep their guns with them. An elementary school teacher that interacts with the kids with close contact would have a hard time maintaining the security of a gun strapped to their body.

There are also questions about the visibility of a gun strapped to a teacher. Assuming a gun could be safely and securely carried by a teacher, then there is a concern about whether this would cause additional anxiety for the kids in the classroom.

Level of Training

It is uncommon to see civilians or others carrying guns. When it comes to police officers, a gun is a part of their uniform. It is a common occurrence to see a gun on an officer. More importantly, police officers are given training that on not only using a weapon, but also on how to overcome anyone trying to take their weapons.

In fact, police officers receive extensive and regular training. The area of security is a core focus of what police officers do and not an “add-on” like it would be for teachers. Officers that are placed in schools, School Resource Officers (SROs), are not only trained as police officers, but they also receive additionally training that includes coverage of the following:

  • Emergency Operations Plans
  • CPTED/Vulnerability Assessments
  • Threat Response
  • ALICE Lock-down Response
  • Trauma Informed Practices
  • Human Trafficking
  • School Law
  • Understanding Special Needs Students
  • Adolescent Mental Health
  • Violence and Victimization in Youth (ACES)
  • Policing the Teenage Brain
  • Drug Trends/Prevention

Training with guns is a regular part of officers’ core job. It is not something tacked onto that they do, but rather it is a core part of their profession.

Teachers are trained on kids and teaching. Training for teachers centers on interacting and educating kids. While some of this overlaps with some of the items listed above for SROs, teacher training generally doesn’t include working with the same level of threat responses and emergency operations that police officers receive.

Mental Preparedness

Teachers work within a classroom with kids. That’s a special skill that teachers are expected to do. Being mentally prepared to wrangle 20 to 30 kids and keep them focus is a skill that takes is backed by years of training. Teachers are trained to be mentally prepared to work within the classroom setting and to engage kids in learning.

Police officers training is related to the topics mentioned earlier, as well as training on marksmanship and the use of firearms. This police training along with regular practice is intended to help with their physiological response in high stress situations. Because teachers would not have this same level of regular training, the chances for making a mistake is much higher, especially in a high-stress situation.

School shooter situations tend to happen in areas with a lot of people. Shooting a gun in a crowded area such as a classroom or hallway can be very risky because there is a chance of hurting an innocent bystander. Again, part of the training for police officers is on knowing when the risks are too high to even use a gun.

Mistaken Identity

While School Resource Officers dress as police officers, teachers don’t. If a police officer were to respond to an issue at a school, it would be very easy for them to mistake a teacher for an armed assailant. The result is that such a case of mistaken identity could cause intense situations or worse the mistaken identity could result in a teacher being shot by an officer.

Sending Police into Schools

NASRO president Don Bridges has commented that “We can’t send officers into schools without being trained.”  In my article, “Safety and the Students at Hamilton Southeastern Schools: Part 1”, I provide more details on what School Resource Officers are. SROs are specially selected police officers selected to work within schools. Before starting at a school, they are given additional training specific to schools and school issues.

In Summary

NASRO recommends that only trained officers carry arms on school property. Rather than trying to turn teachers into officers, the better recommendation is for more School Resource Officers to be put into schools. Let people do the jobs they are trained and qualified to do. Let teachers teach, and let School Resource Officers help keep the schools safe!

Belief that teachers can be trained to be effective with a gun without adding added new and possibly deadly risks to a school is belittling to the training that School Resource Officers receive. As one police officer in Fishers stated that situations involving guns are hard for police officers to handle even with the regular training and practice they receive. Putting the expectation on someone with less training and mental preparedness would increase the risk of something more going horribly wrong in what is already a bad situation.

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The Problems with Putting Metal Detectors in Our Schools

School safety has brought a number of topics to the forefront. Care needs to be taken to make sure that solutions that are applied are not simply reactive or emotional, but rather truly respond to improving school safety. Recent reactive responses range from the President of the United States saying teachers should be armed to parents starting funding pages for metal detectors in schools. Reactive solutions might feel good to most people at first, but as you dig deeper into the details, such responses can cause more issues than they solve.

Metal detectors are a reactive response to school safety. Metal detectors are simply machines that can be placed at entrances to make sure that guns are not brought into the schools. They operate by sounding a warning when a certain amount of metal passes through the detector. Good detectors will not only tell you if metal is passing through, but will also indicate which area within the detector’s sensors (a zone) the metal is passing.

In order to be most effective, you need a detector that covers multiple zones. Such detectors range between two and five thousand dollars each, with the ones recommended for schools being between four and five thousand dollars (US). The detector shown in Figure 1 has 33 zones and was available on Amazon for $4,000 at the time this post was written.


Figure 1: A walk-through metal detector

Securing a Building

Many public buildings such as court houses and airports use metal detectors. These buildings are used as examples of how metal detectors are used effectively.

There is, however, one big difference between these examples and schools.
Government buildings and airports have limited entry points. Those entry points are constantly secured. A person cannot enter without going through the specific entrance points.

In order for a school to be secure, it would need to be locked down to where nobody could ever without being checked via a metal detector. This would mean that for every event, at any time during the day, every person would need to be checked. This would include all after school activities, sporting events, and other activities that occur outside of the normal school hours. For each of these events, people would have to be checked. Additionally, all doors would need to be monitored to make sure that they are never opened or entered without a check for guns. This would require staffing not only during the school hours, but at any time anyone needs to enter a building. If there is a time when a person could open a door and let someone in without doing a check, then all of the safety that was gained with the detectors could be lost.

One suggested solution is to eliminate many of the doors  at a school. The reality is that schools were designed to provide easy evacuation in case of an emergency such as a gas leak, fire, or other situation. The high number of doors is a safety measure. Removing them, would reduce safety in the event of other situations.

The True Cost of Metal Detectors in Schools

Assuming that a school could be secured, then at only $4,000 each, it might seem inexpensive to get a metal detector. While one person has set up a funding drive to get a metal detector for each school in our area, it is important to note that the cost of one metal detector doesn’t represent the true cost for a school.

The first issue is that more than one detector is needed in most schools. As already mentioned, to be effective, you need to have metal detectors at every location where a person could enter a school. As such, buying one metal detector for each school in a district would be pointless. Rather you need one for each door. For HSE, this can 23 or more  different doors at a single high school or as many as 15 at an elementary school. For example, New Britton Elementary has 15 numbered doors. Suddenly the $4,000 cost becomes $92,000 or more for a high school and $60,000 for an elementary, assuming just one only detector at each door.

Assuming you install detectors (which might add an additional cost), you would then need a qualified person to monitor people passing through the detector. If you have 23 doors, that would mean an additional 23 people are needed to monitor each of the detectors. The salaries of 23 people would overshadow the cost of the detectors themselves.

In a district with 21 schools, if you assume 15 doors per elementary through junior high, and 23 in each high school, then you are looking at over 300 detectors and staff.

2,300 in 20 to 30 Minutes

Another issue that schools would have to address if detectors were used is the flow of people into the school. To be effective, the high schools would need to be able to process around 2,300 students through the doors in 20 to 30 minutes. If you are using 10 main doors, then that would be 230 kids per door or roughly 10 kids a minute. As long as there are zero issues, then you might be able to do a kid every six seconds; however, I’ve never seen an airport line move that fast through a single detector.

One of the issues raised with schools with detectors is that bottlenecks can cause lines to queue up outside of the doors. How do you make sure these kids lined up outside of the school door are safe?

Recess

Similar to the queues that could be created outside of doors for kids to get into a school, you also have to consider the times that kids are outside of a school building. While metal detectors might help reduce the chance of weapons getting into a school building, they won’t do anything for the kids that are outside on the playground, the track, the football field, or otherwise doing outside activities.

Metal Detectors Detect Metal

One of the comments I hear the most is from people who grew up with metal detectors in the schools they attended. They state that they had them when they were in school, so there shouldn’t be an issue using them now.
The world changed. When these people went to school, there was no 1-to-1 initiatives where every kid carried a computer – a computer made with lots of metal.

When you factor in the issue of every kid carrying a computer that will set off a metal detector, then you also need to factor in the increased amount of time it will take to get through the metal detectors as computers are removed from backpacks and processed outside of the metal detector. This not only slows down the entire process of getting kids into the schools, it also increases the need for trained people to monitor each detector since items would be getting passed around them.

“No School Shooter Has Gone Through a Locked Door.”

HSE Superintendent Dr. Bourff indicated that in the previous school district where he had worked, guns were not found in the school. Rather, tips led to guns that were hidden outside of the school. If a person hides a gun right outside of the school, then the detector isn’t going to slow them down should they decide they want to use it. While it would alert that they are there with a large piece of metal, other systems are in place within schools, such as the secured vestibules, that would be more effective.

Show the Statistics

Metal detectors have been shown to be an emotional response to school security. While metal detectors do add an additional layer to school security, statistics are needed to show they are effective in schools.

To Summarize…

The true cost of buying and operating metal detectors would be better spent on other security features including an increase in Security Resource Officers and better communication. While having metal detectors might give the appearance of better security, it only takes one door to not be monitored for a few minutes to eliminate all of the security that the detectors were expected to provide. Most indications are that metal detectors are not a viable security solution in today’s twenty first century schools. While they might give the sense of security in the same way a fake video camera does, the reality is that they are flawed when it comes to preventing the threat they are meant to stop.

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