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How Safe Are Our Schools?

Patch surveyed Milwaukee-area school districts about security measures in place at their schools See how Port Washington-Saukville compares with other Milwaukee-area districts.

The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut stole 26 lives and again opened the door on conversations about gun control and mental health.

But another topic that has emerged is security in schools, and whether we are doing enough to keep children safe. Following the shooting, the National Rifle Association advocated arming teachers and stationing armed guards in schools. 

In the Port Washington-Saukville School District, a 55-page manual discusses procedures for emergencies such as bomb threats, missing student, weapons on premise, lockdown procedures, suspicious packages, riots and more. 

Superintendent Michael Weber said regular fire and lockdown drills are conducted in the schools, and certain staff are designated to evaluate district procedures and improve on safety policies.

"It's really a tragic thing that (the shooting) happened," he said, "and we had been all the way along making certain that we kept our students as safe as we could ... and now something like just reinforces what we've been doing."

Though Weber believes the district's safety procedures are strong, he did say a group of administrators would be meeting throughout the holiday break to consider possible changes — such as locking main entrance doors, or no longer using district buildings as polling places, according to an Ozaukee Press article.

  • Related: Need for Safety in Schools Reinforced by Newtown Tragedy

Patch surveyed Milwaukee area school districts on their schools' security practices. The 16 districts that responded to the survey are: Cudahy, Nicolet High School, Glendale-River Hills/Mapledale-Indian Hill, Muskego-Norway, Greendale, Shorewood, Oak Creek-Franklin, Menomonee Falls, Mequon-Theinsville, Racine Unified School District, Whitefish Bay, Whitnall School District, Port Washington-Saukville School District, Elmbrook School District, the School District of Waukesha and Franklin School District.

Of those 16, seven said they had some sort of security staff at the school, ranging in description from supervisory aids to liaison officers and district employees serving as security aids. At Shorewood High, campus security is available.

Closed-circuit TV monitoring systems are already in place in 14 districts. The Menomonee Falls School District was the only one who responded that the district does not have closed circuit montitoring, but said they are nailing down a final price before installing a system. Waukesha did not respond to that question.

All districts said they participate in regular lockdown drills with their students, and most lock all doors to the school during class hours; some districts said a main entrance is often left unlocked.

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Wisconsin has no official guidelines for security in schools, said Peter Pochowski, executive director of the Wisconsin School Safety Coordinators Association, but law requires they have a crisis plan in place and that they perform at least two emergency drills each year.

Pochowski said some districts seem to feel they don't need to be prepared, because they don't think something like the Sandy Hook shooting could happen. 

"The first thing is to understand that school-type shooting incidents can happen anywhere," he said. 

He recommends districts create crisis management teams that work together to develop the crisis plan and prioritize security needs.

"It's simple, but not easy," he said. 

Find out more about a particular district, or compare a few by using the above database. You can select multiple districts in the list to compare several districts on the same page. The database may not be viewable on mobile devices.

Joseph January 03, 2013 at 01:54 PM
If you don't think something like a school shooting can happen, then your head is in the sand. When you read through police reports of surviving victims on anything, you'll often hear them say they never thought something like this could happen to them. School shootings have even happened in WI! Now, let's go a step further. How many times do kids get beat up in school? What are you doing to prevent that? If you can't prevent someone getting hit or kicked, how do you think you can prevent someone with a gun from murdering people?
MKEgal January 04, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Closed-circuit TV??? So they can have video of the massacre to show the police? So they can give a picture of the murderer to the media? Video stops nothing. Lockdown drills?? Making the people stuck in classrooms sitting ducks unless they can get out a window. "most lock all doors to the school during class hours" The door at Sandy Hook was locked until the murderer shot through the glass & opened it. Since they started following federal law in 2003, letting anyone with a carry license carry in a school (and there are many teachers who care enough to protect their students), Utah has not had a school shooting. Wisconsin has had school shootings & guns in schools, despite strict laws regulating exactly how that can happen legally... and the criminals & kids don't follow the laws. If we can't trust teachers with our kids' safety, we need to find new teachers. I'm not saying all school staff must be armed, but give them the option & I'm sure there are some who will do so. If the criminals know they'll have the possibility of being effectively opposed, they're much less likely to choose that place to (try to) commit mass murder.

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