Archived Story

Polk school security task force organizes

Published 9:08am Thursday, January 24, 2013

“I don’t think there’s a person on this board whose goal isn’t to make kids safe at school,” Tennant said.

He agreed with Miller saying as a society people normally take piles of money and throw it at problems.

“That might give people a false sense that we’ve done something important and it might blow up in our face,” Tennant said.

The task force agreed that each school’s risks are going to be different.

Miller mentioned how difficult some of Polk County’s schools are to secure due to the layouts, particularly Tryon and Polk Central because of multiple buildings and multiple entrances.

Miller said people talk about how an officer can simply man the door, but what people don’t understand is that most schools have four doors. There’s not one place to stand, he said.

The task force agreed that input is needed from teachers and individual school administrators regarding what each school thinks their top security risks are.

Miller said another thing the task force may need to consider is that the most dangerous time in Polk County School activities is not during the school day but during athletic events.

“There’s 5,000 people at a football game on a Friday night and nobody’s searched,” Miller said. “That’s the most dangerous thing happening in Polk County.”

Miller also said people think that school runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and asked if the group was going to discuss after school and summer school.

“People think school runs from 8 to 3, but it’s really from 8 to 6,” Miller said.

The consensus was that the task force will concentrate on securing facilities and agreed on the 10 facilities to create a risk assessment.

The group decided to create the risk assessment within 60 days, or by the end of March. The timing works out with the school system currently working on a strategic plan, so the task force agreed to work hand-in-hand with the plan, particularly with the public input portion of the school’s plan.

Miller said originally the strategic plan was not going to include security measures but after the December shooting in Connecticut, school officials decided to make security part of that plan.

The school’s strategic plan will also involve surveys.

Following the risk assessment of the school facilities, the task force said it would like to talk to different groups for input, including mental health officials, the Polk County Department of Social Services, school principals and local state representatives.

In the meantime, task force members are going to research statistical information regarding security issues at schools, speak with other law enforcement and school districts regarding what they may be doing that is working and keeping up to date with what state and federal officials are implementing, especially in terms of funding.

The next task force meeting is scheduled for Feb. 21.

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