|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Troutdale school shooting heightens sense of urgency In Rogue Valley

    Rogue Valley officials urge increased preventative measures
  • Following the fatal shooting Tuesday at Reynolds High School outside Portland, local school officials and law enforcement agencies are looking at what else can be done to better ensure the safety of students.
    • email print
      Comment
  • Following the fatal shooting Tuesday at Reynolds High School outside Portland, local school officials and law enforcement agencies are looking at what else can be done to better ensure the safety of students.
    Shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday, a lone gunman armed with a rifle open fired at the Troutdale high school, killing freshman Emilio Hoffman and slightly wounding physical education teacher Todd Rispler. The gunman was found dead in a bathroom stall shortly afterward, authorities said.
    It was the 74th fatal school shooting in the U.S. since 20-year-old Adam Lanza gunned down 20 children and six adults in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., according to gun control groups.
    After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the Medford School District put up fencing around school campuses, upgraded security alarm systems and installed cameras and window coverings to obscure views.
    However, as Ernie Whiteman, a veteran school resource officer at North Medford High School, watched the news feed coming out of Reynolds High School Tuesday, he noted things Medford could do to improve its emergency action procedures.
    "We try to learn from every school shooting so we can try to prevent it here," he said. "There are some things they did that isn't part of what we do, such as a Twitter notification system that gets the word out to all the parents."
    Whiteman has been working with local districts to develop a consistent emergency operations plan to be implemented countywide this fall.
    "We just want everybody to be on the same page so if we do have to respond to Ashland, Eagle Point, Shady Cove or Rogue River, everyone will basically know what to do," Whiteman said, adding that 18 agencies responded to the Reynolds shooting.
    Schools near Interstate 5, the train tracks, the airport or a chemical plant will have additional hazards to take into consideration, and their plans will have to be "tweaked" accordingly, Whiteman said.
    "But the basic plan would be the same," he said.
    The Medford School District aims at having three emergency drills a year. The first two are typically arranged beforehand with school administration, but the third one is a surprise, Whiteman said.
    "That's what helps us gauge how well everyone reacts and if we have any holes in our plan that we need to look at and adjust," he said.
    The Medford School District has four sworn officers and two community service officers dedicated to school safety and also has invested in mental health interventionists to provide support for troubled youth.
    The Central Point School District doesn't have school resource officers but does have cameras in place at Scenic Middle School and Crater High School, said David Heard, who oversees the district's emergency plan.
    Heard said every school in the district holds monthly fire, earthquake or crisis drills.
    "We have our procedures down, ... and we're as secure as we can be with the physical makeup," he said. "But are schools ever going to be totally safe?"
    The Eagle Point Weapons Safety Committee recently reviewed the district's safety measures and identified several areas where security could be improved.
    At the committee's recommendation, the district will provide ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training for all staff members, establish a single point of entry at every building and install buzzed entry systems, silent panic alarms and glass coverings.
    Currently, the Jackson County Sheriff's Department is working with the Southern Oregon University Research Center to secure a $5 million federal grant that would cover the cost of purchasing a state-of-the-art Nexar Security System for every school in the Central Point and Eagle Point districts, said Sheriff Mike Winters.
    The Nexar system was installed in Shady Cove Elementary last June and features door locks, panic buttons and cameras that can be accessed by law enforcement in the event of an emergency.
    Sandy Hook Elementary had a buzzed entry, but Lanza just shot it out, Winters said.
    "If you have buttons and things that dial 911 that will make you feel good but that does nothing to change the outcome of an active shooter," he said.
    The system, although expensive, should be mandatory in all schools, he added.
    "In every school in America, fire sprinklers are required," Winters said. "They are very costly, but we haven't lost a child since 1958 in a school fire. But on a regular basis, kids are getting slaughtered in school shootings. We really have to step up our game if we want to change the outcome of school shootings."
    Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.
Reader Reaction

      calendar