School safety a priority

Midddlebury Community Schools officials say they are exploring new safety proceedures forstudents and staff.

Posted on Feb. 5, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Community Schools administrators say they are exploring new safety procedures in wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting and a Jan. 18 incident in which a student brought a gun to Northridge High School. The student was immediately expelled.

“Don’t think anything is more in the forefront of our minds other than your children and their safety,” said Superintendent Jane Allen at the district’s Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Kristy Smith, a Middlebury parent whose son attends Northridge Middle School, said she worries about her son’s safety at school and asked what the school district is doing to protect him and his classmates.

“I hold my breath Monday through Friday until 4 (p.m.) when he comes off the bus,” Smith said.

Smith asked if the school district was considering increasing the number of police officers schools, adding metal detectors, running background checks on students moving into the district or taking additional steps to ensure students’ safety.

The student who brought a gun to school in January had moved into the district during the school year.

Allen said that because Middlebury is a public school district, it cannot refuse to enroll a student who moves into the district unless that student was expelled from the previous school.

Parent Scott Miller asked if the district is assembling a team to look at the issue of school safety and asked for more communication with parents on the district’s progress.

Allen said she and the superintendents from several other Elkhart County school districts spent Tuesday afternoon with the Elkhart County Sheriff to discuss potential safety measures.

Metal detectors and increased community resource officers “are not out of the question,” Allen said.

Funding will be a factor in any decision on new safety resources, but Allen said additional funding for school safety could be coming from the state and federal government in coming years.

Smith suggested taking a donation from the community to pay for security improvements.

“I know I would be willing to pay extra every year, every month or even every week — whatever it takes,” Smith said.

Board President Joanna King said mental illness is a common factor among incidents of school gun violence and more should be done to address that problem in addition to beefing up security measures.

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