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Community discusses school safety PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 February 2018 12:34

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ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times



EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of the story recapping discussions the community meeting Thursday evening hosted by the Liberal Police Department and USD 480 and will cover what LPD Chief Dennis Mulanax talked about regarding school safety. Part two will discuss what Mulanax said regarding safety while using social media and the final part will cover USD 480 Director of Curriculum and Staff Development Lana Evans’ presentation regarding the district’s ALICE. training. 

The safety and security of students while in school buildings has become a major topic of debate recently due to recent events in the U.S. and Thursday evening, that discussion was brought right to the citizens of Liberal. 

The Liberal Police Department and staff with USD No. 480 partnered up Thursday evening to talk about a few topics related to just that, with LPD Chief Dennis Mulanax discussing overall school safety. 

“We’ve had this in the planning for about two months now, sometime along those lines, and lo and behold, another school shooting happens last week,” Mulanax began. “I wondered if this would really be a good time to present this and then I weighed the pros and cons and then decided this is a good time to talk abotu this since it’s already on so many people’s minds at the moment. The intent of coming to you tonight is not to brainwash you, it’s not to reduce or lessen school violence. We can all agree this is a serious matter in society. What our intent is to provide some education to the public. Our intent is also to open ourselves to you so we can get some feedback because we want to talk to you and hear your concerns. But we’re coming to you and as your chief of police, I think it’s important we do that.”

Mulanax also briefly recapped the incident involving a student making a threat toward schools in USD 480 via social media that occurred in January. 

“Just last month, our community experienced a social media threat,” Mulanax said. “I can’t get into that due to prosecutorial standards and whatnot, but we worked closely with USD 480 on that situation, and they also share our concerns. I think it’s fair to say the LPD officers and USD 480 personnel are just as concerned as everyone in this community we all live in. We all have children in the schools, these are our workplaces.”

Some numbers regarding school violence were also shown to the gathered crowd. 

“Between 2013 and 2015, there were 160 school shootings across 38 states,” Mulanax said. “Now, these numbers can be somewhat confusing. With the shooting that occurred last week, I’m already hearing on national news this is the 18th shooting we’ve had in our country this year. But when I go to a different national source, they say that’s not true. So some of these definitions of school shootings are subjective. And one of the things I want to add to that subjectiveness is we know there was at least one school shooting where a member of the public drove to a closed school property and committed suicide, and that was logged in with these school shootings. I want to reiterate every act of violence in schools is serious and I don’t want to take away from that but what I want to to is add to the realism of what we’re dealing with here and our goal is to reduce your fear of these particular events.”

Nearly 53 percent of those shootings between 2013 and 2015 took place in schools with K-12 schools and the other 47 taking place on a college or university campus, Mulanax said. 

“What we’re looking at is approximately 75 million people in school settings, and that includes both the K-12 schools and college campuses,” Mulanax said. “And upon doing some research, what you’ll find is our schools are still one of the safest places for your students to be at and more children die at home than at school. When this social media threat occurred last month, it’s estimated between 25 and 40 percent kept their children at home. One of the reasons this is so important is because when we send our children to school, we expect them to be safe and these school shootings expose our vulnerability. These are horrific events and we, just like you, know how important this is.”

Mulanax added overall, schools are much safer than several years ago and said many distrcts are participating in programs such as ALICE, which was implemented in USD 480 slightly more than a year ago and is being used in other school districts and workplaces around the U.S. Mulanax then gave some more statistics regarding school shooters in the U.S.

“More than 750,000 incidents of violent crime took place here in the U.S. during the 2013-14 school year,” Mulanax said. “But keep in mind the definition of ‘incidents’ can be very broad when it comes to this and there are lots of things that happen that are being included with this. And keeping in mind how many total students there are throughout the U.S. and the math shows school is still one of the safest places for them to be.”

Work being done throughout USD 480 to help keep students safe was praised by Mulanax. 

“Violence is unpredictable and I wish I could give you some absolutes,” Mulanax said. “Even if we threw an unending stream of money at USD 480 and put up walls around the campuses, but if someone was creative and evil enough, they’ll still find a way to infiltrate them. So what are we doing in response to that? We’ve got ALICE training in full swing, we’ve got surveillance cameras, we’ve got school resource officers and we’re working to get more of them into the schools. Since becoming chief, I’ve bene asking my officers to make their way over to the schools as much as possible and working with them, and I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from that. With the locked doors protocol we have, I actually tested USD 480 today and went to one of the schools and tried all the doors, they were all locked. To get in, you’ve got to come into a spot with controlled access, you’ve got to buzz in and you’re on surveillance cameras and have to have access granted to you. So USD 480 passed that test. We are doing everything we can and have several systems in place with USD 480, and they’re all doing an excellent job.”

After taking a few questions, this part of the meeting was concluded. The presentation was praised by attendees at the meeting. 

“I feel very good and very confident that they’re doing the right things to not necessarily prevent something like this from happening but the systems do work in helping reduce casualties as much as possible if an event like this were to happen,” Elida Escarcega said. “So I think having this is a good idea.”

“I agree with my sister in how the systems do work most of the time and it is accurate with everything they were talking about,” Tiana Escarcega, a student at Sunflower Elementary School, said. “But there were a few things I’m still a bit confused about because some of the things they talked about weren’t completely covered. It’ll take some more practice and some more education to fully understand all of that.”

Both also talked about their feelings on the safety of the schools. 

“I agree with a lot of what was said,” Tiana said. “But personally, I feel ... the security in the schools is really good, but when it comes to the drills, it’s not quite as firm. It’s really good, but like anything else, it could be improved.”

“I haven’t been a student for a long time but my little sister here is a student and from what I can see comparing when I was a student to now, there’s definitely more in place and they definitely care about who enters and leaves the buildings,” Elida added. “There’s more security and all of that and I feel pretty confident my sister’s going to be safe. I definitely want to be involved in these meetings more because it’s my little sister’s safety and I want to know what’s going on in her school and the community and I want to be able to help if something comes up.”


 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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