News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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December 30, 2012

Vigo schools to clamp down on security

TERRE HAUTE — When school resumes Wednesday, the Vigo County School Corp. plans to tighten security measures related to supervision, visitor protocols and technology at building entrances.

Schools have been on winter break, but district officials have been reviewing security measures, something that will be ongoing, said Ray Azar, VCSC director of student services. They also will continue to meet with law enforcement on areas where they can work together.

“It will be a work in progress,” Azar said. “Parents need to be assured their children will be safe in school and we’re doing everything we can to make that happen.”

The changes are prompted by the Dec. 14  tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., School districts across the nation are heightening security measures and re-evaluating safety plans and procedures.

In Vigo County, once the school day begins, front entrances will be locked at the elementary and middle schools. Visitors will have to use a buzzer or video system to gain entrance, and the district is making technology upgrades to some of the schools that don’t have those systems.

North, South and West Vigo high schools already have law enforcement officers stationed at kiosks near the front entrance during the school day. Visitors may be asked for identification.

In other measures:

n The district will request that all school staff wear identification badges. In the event of an incident, it lets law enforcement know who works at the school and who should be there.

n Visitor protocols will be reinforced. Visitors must sign in, state their business, “be approved before they are allowed to enter the facility” and wear a badge, Azar said.

If a visitor is walking in a school without a badge, that person would be reported to the main office “so we know everyone in the school has a legitimate interest in being there,” Azar said.

n If school staff members do not recognize a visitor, and the visit relates to a student, school staff might ask the visitor a “security question … that a legitimate party who knows the student would be able to answer,” Azar said.

n Anyone coming to school to pick up a child during the school day must be on that child’s emergency card.

n The district is encouraging staff to monitor the school throughout the day “to try to minimize any more hoaxes or pranks we experienced before winter break,” Azar said.

There haven’t been any major changes as far as use of school facilities by outside groups after the school day has ended, he said. “Because of budget necessities, we’ve tightened up a lot over the last year,” he said.

There may be some changes in after-school security, he noted.

“Everything is on the table. We want to be sure we’re doing everything possible to make sure kids are safe while they are in school,” Azar said.

He acknowledged there may be more inconveniences for parents and members of the public who visit the schools. He also knows there may be occasions where some people become upset with the tightened security.

Just as people have gotten used to providing identification at the high school kiosks, when asked, he believes people will get used to the latest school security measures.

“Unfortunately, it’s part of the new reality of the world we live in,” he said.

He likened it to heightened airport security. Most people follow the rules and are not a threat, “but they all have to go through airport security.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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