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Courageous Conversations: Are our schools safe?

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Every time there is a school shooting incident, we here at KOLR10 like to ask the question "what has your school done since Sandy Hook?"

Three of our largest school districts in the area: Springfield, Nixa and Ozark provide several security measures to ensure the safety of their students. Students KOLR10 spoke to said they feel generally safe going to school every day but they do worry about mass shootings.  

"We are no less vulnerable than the students at Parkland," said Andre Swai, a Junior at Parkview High School, "I understand that even though it's statistically improbable, it can still happen to me."

Some students said they feel especially scared at certain times.

"Right after like any shootings that happen at schools," said Kaitlyn Roberts, another Junior at Parkview High School, "when they're portrayed on the mass media, that's usually when I don't feel as safe."

School districts said they have many security measures.

In light of school shootings in recent history, schools are now not easy to get in to.  

Most schools now have secure entrances but adding them can be a challenge.  

"In some of our older facilities, those are not a possibility because of the age of the building," said Stephen Hall, the chief communications officer at Springfield Public Schools.

Zac Rantz, the chief communication officer at Nixa Public Schools, said "you can't just walk straight into the building, through the front doors."

"You can walk into a vestibule but then you'd have to be buzzed in," said Curtis Chesick, the executive director of technology and communications at Ozark School District.

Districts said in most of their schools, they have security cameras in every entrance.

All the doors and windows are locked at all times besides pick up and drop off hours.

They also have a sign-in system with visitors, but some students feel it can be improved.

"Just earlier a lady came up and said she had something for our assistant principals," said Roberts, "and didn't mention at all what it was. And that would've been a way for her to get into our school."

Districts also utilize resource officers.

Director of Springfield Public Schools Police Jim Farrel said resource officers go through a lot of training.

"We train intruders," said Farrell, "doesn't have to be a shooter."

He said part of their job is to build trusting relationships with students so they'll be more inclined to come forward to report a possible incident.

"He walks down that hall high-fiving the students," Farrell said, "and they're high-fiving back."

Districts also conduct training for staff and students to teach them what to do during intruder situations.

"It's not just for at school situation," said Chesick, "if it's at the mall or they're at Walmart, or if they're at the movie theater."

"The training is different for our staff and faculty and training for the students," said Hall, "and so we want to make that specific and as frequent as it can be."

For all these security measures, districts said there wasn't just one event that prompted them to add security.

However, mass shootings definitely lead schools to prioritize security.

A potential safety measure that none of the three districts participate in is arming teachers.

"We know that our teachers do amazing work in the classroom, each and every day they have so many responsibilities," said Hall, "so we believe that our well trained armed professionals and our school police are the ones that serve that role best."

And some students are happy about this.

Roberts said, "I would not feel safer if my teachers were armed."

"Instead of adding more fire to the flame," suggested Swai, "we should instead just work on stricter gun regulations."

While KOLR10 didn't want to show specific security measures for each school, we do think it's important for the public to be aware of ongoing efforts to harden schools. 

We ask again, what has your school done since Sandy Hook? 

It's up to the parents, teachers, and students at each school to constantly evaluate what they need to do to keep their children safe.


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