School shooting brings to light local safety protocols

A shooting last week at an Indiana school has again prompted parents, schools and law enforcement to evaluate their own school safety plans and look for any changes that need to be made, such as adding bulletproof glass or re-evaluating how police would get into a locked school if a shooter was inside.

Most local school and law enforcement officials do not disclose, for safety reasons, what their plans are for an active shooter situation, but all schools have such plans. Johnson County police agencies train together at the schools every couple of years, Sheriff Doug Cox said, and schools are constantly updating their safety protocols.

The 14-year-old who showed up at David W. Dennis Intermediate School in Richmond with a gun shot through the glass of a locked door at the school and ran into the building. Police followed, but the teenager eventually shot himself.

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No one else was injured, and the teenager was not a student at the school, police said.

“Usually, particularly after something like this happens, we’ll find something else that needs to be updated,” said Kent DeKoninck, Greenwood Community Schools superintendent.

“With this shooting today, there may be something that comes out of it that would encourage us to fine tune something else. Every situation has its own little bit of facts that help us improve safety protocols. What we continue to learn after every unfortunate event is that there’s probably something else we could amend or change,” he said.

During a school lockdown, districts have different ways of giving police access to a building.

In one school district, the local police department has its own set of keys to the schools.

In another, school administrators are in constant contact with their school resource officers and would be able to give them quick access if they needed it, an official said.

And in another, police and school leaders have discussed the need for local police to have access to schools during lockdowns, and have been working on a plan, which will likely change again in the wake of last week’s shooting, an official said.

Local fire departments have access to schools via locked key boxes, and police could probably gain access to a school by connecting with them during an emergency situation, Franklin Police Chief Kirby Cochran said.

The multi-agency SWAT team could also use a door-breaching device to break into the building quietly if they needed to, Cochran said.

Shooting through the glass would be a last resort for police, he said.

“The recommendation is to not be firing into a building, especially a building that has children in it,” Cochran said.

Doing that would also draw unwanted attention during an active-shooter situation, he said.

“In an ideal situation, yeah, all of the schools would have bullet-proof glass. However, that can also be a hindrance for our officers if they need to get in. That, and it’s very, very expensive,” Cochran said.

Bullet-proof glass is used among Johnson County’s 39 public schools. Which schools have it is not being disclosed for safety reasons.

In one school district, the newer buildings are built with a laminated glass which would be extremely hard for a gunman to shoot through, and officials are considering a special film that could be added to glass in the older buildings that would have a similar effect, an official said.

Schools are required by state law to update their safety protocols annually, but most do it more often than that. The Indiana Department of Education reviews those protocols every year and meets with school officials in every school district around the state to discuss improvements that should be made.

Edinburgh Community Schools just had its annual meeting with the state department last week, Superintendent Doug Arnold said.

Last week’s shooting was the second in Indiana this year. The first was in May at a Noblesville middle school. It prompted several central Indiana school districts to ask their communities for more money to improve safety and security on their campuses.

Clark-Pleasant was one of them. Residents of that district agreed to raise their property taxes which will add $12 million to the school’s budget over the next eight years to be spent on these kinds of improvements.


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