A time to pause

Warwick Valley school superintendent outlines the district’s safety and security measures

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— On the morning after the latest incident of school violence, this time 17 people killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Warwick Valley Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach offered this:

“A day like today gives you reason to pause,” Leach said, “and ask yourself if the precautions you’ve taken are enough.”

The superintendent then described a number of the district’s safety and security procedures.

Although he said there is no accurate profile of an active shooter, “an incident of violence is rarely an impulsive act.”

That, he added, emphasizes the need to observe and to communicate among teachers, staff and students. Students are encouraged to practice the Homeland Security maxim: “If you see something, say something.”

Most attackers have experienced some difficulty, he said: They’ve been bullied, they may have attempted suicide. And they have access to weapons.

Leach said that on at least two occasions this school year, he has asked police to visit the homes of students to check on their access to firearms.

DrillsThe district conducts 12 fire drills each school year.

There also are four lock down drills. During those exercises, students are told to report to the nearest classroom. The doors are locked, the windows closed, the shades drawn. And the students are positioned to the closest interior wall.

The students and staff remain in the locked rooms until police tell them they can leave.

PreparednessA year ago, the district hired a security expert to assess the district’s preparedness. The resulting report included assessment of the district’s buildings at night as well as during the day.

Among the recommendations: adding double sets of doors in the vestibules of Park Avenue Elementary and the Middle School. Double doors will be added to the High School and Sanfordville as part of current capital expenditures.

When you enter a school buildingDuring a school day, as many as 4,000 people - students, staff, teachers - operate within the district’s properties.

Each school has a greeter who checks in each visitor.

The district also employs at each school a security program from Raptor Technologies that immediately does background checks.

Those checks include:

Determining if the visitor to the school is a sex offender;

Whether the visitor is in a custody dispute with his or her spouse;

Whether a student has been expelled; or

Whether the visitors is a known gang member, among other issues that may signal trouble.

Each school has a safety plan and the district works closely with the Warwick Police Department.

The district has Student Resource Officers in the Middle School and High School and members of the Warwick Police Department regularly make unscheduled visits to all schools.

Leach said some residents questioned the need for a student resource officer.

“Given the times we live in,” the superintendent said, “we felt we have no choice.”

- Bob Quinn

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