Expert says there are ways to make schools safer

October 08, 2006|by TARA REILLY

At a minimum, school districts should use common sense when it comes to keeping students safe by taking measures such as locking doors and requiring identification to enter schools, the head of a West Virginia-based school safety organization said.

Peter Blauvelt, CEO and president of National Alliance for Safe Schools in Slanesville, W.Va., said those basic and inexpensive measures should be at the top of every school's safety plan.

Many schools, however, aren't using common sense, and people who don't belong there are free to roam hallways, Blauvelt said.

"Unfortunately, it is very common, and it's unfortunate, because I can't understand in today's climate why doors are not locked," Blauvelt said. "It's just absolutely stupid."

"You shouldn't be able to get into a school ... without having a pass," he said. "If you do not have a visitor's badge, you ought to be challenged."


In cases in which students must leave the school for classes in portable classrooms, he said, schools don't have to keep all the doors open. In such cases, access should be limited to one or two doors, he said.

Blauvelt's nonprofit organization has been training schools on safety since 1977.

He urged schools to have updated and specific safety plans, train staff and students in proper safety procedures and create emergency response teams consisting of staff members to handle different duties in emergencies.

Schools should have lockdown drills just as they have fire drills, he said.

Blauvelt said the recent shooting at a small, rural Amish school in Pennsylvania should be a lesson for all school districts in the country.

Addressing The Herald-Mail's stories in which reporters were able to freely walk the halls of some schools, Blauvelt said he could cry.

Blauvelt said the schools should have been aware that there were people in the hallways who didn't belong there. At that point, he said the schools immediately should have gone into a "code red lockdown" until school officials determined there was no safety threat.

He said parents should be able to expect their children to be safe when they go to school.

"Yet (schools) don't take the most basic (steps), and that's locked doors," Blauvelt said. "It's very discouraging but not surprising."

School safety tips

Following are tips by the National Alliance for Safe Schools.

· Keep all doors locked.

· Ask for identification for those wishing to enter.

· Require badges for visitors and question those without badges.

· Make sure school security plans are current and include specifics about what to do in emergencies.

· Create crisis teams to handle certain duties in emergencies.

· Train staff and students in emergency procedures by, for instance, holding regular lockdown drills.

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