With the recent murders of students by a gunman in Newtown, Conn. fresh on everyone's minds, the Malden School Board, administration and local law enforcement reviewed current security measures and discussed further measures to be implemented during an open forum.
Board member Carolyn Cornman explained that despite what happens with state or federal funding, she wants the school to always have an SRO officer on location.
Police Chief Jarrett Bullock explained to the board and administration that he has undergone training from lead investigators of school shootings in Columbine, Jonesboro, and Pennsylvania. He stated that he believes the number one deterrent to an active shooter is a police presence and that he strongly feels an SRO officer is necessary for the school district. He also explained that each new officer is brought through the school so they become familiar with the layout and that the Department has an active safety plan and regularly undergoes training related to the school.
"My number one goal is to be part of this school," explained Bullock.
Each year, a mock exercise is scheduled and officers enter the school during the tactical training exercises designed to simulate a school shooting. During the 2011 exercise, officers from the Malden, Campbell, and Kennett Police Departments as well as officers of Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop E and Dunklin County Sheriff's Department participated in the February function.
Volunteers served to emulate an actual school shooting environment by yelling as officers entered the building, attempting to distract the officers and simulating a panicked student body. As each new training group entered the building, the officers approached rooms and corners as an area in which the shooter could be hiding. Each room was cleared as the squad made their way down the hall. Throughout this process, a great deal of noise was created to attempt to distract the officers and replicate the scenario of an actual school shooting. The officers worked as a team and communicated their positions all the while maintaining contact with other members of the team. As the group would pass a victim, that victim would be evaluated and it would be determined if they were friend or foe. A replica of a bomb was also thrown into the mix. As each team approached the bomb, part of the training was for them to determine the most appropriate action. With each advancement, the goal was to apprehend the shooter.
At some point in each exercise, the shooter would set off a round of bullets causing the team of officers to pursue the perpetrator. The exercise simulation ended with the subject being apprehended in a lounge with a narrow doorway. Breaching that particular doorway was also a distinct challenge as each officer was met with gun fire as they approached.
Bullock also explained that a faculty session had previously been scheduled for February in which law enforcement will meet with school employees in a training format concerning school security.
Board President Dave Green explained that this training was part of regularly scheduled training.
School Superintendent Ken Cook discussed that school administrators and law enforcement are able to communicate well with the radio system currently in use.
Board member Tracy Stone commended Cook and Bullock on their communication and stated that he was reassured by what he heard.
Cook explained that there were a few specific safety precautions he wanted to discuss and explained that some parents will not like the hassle of security changes and the preschool staff will have more work placed on them because of some increases in security.
Green assured him that the board was more concerned about security for the students than hurt feelings.
"The safest door locks we have are the ones on the classroom," explained Cook and further emphasized that those doors need to be locked. He also spoke of continuing to create an environment where students feel comfortable informing staff and faculty of potential dangers.
The group also discussed mental health issues and ways teachers could more easily detect students with potential problems. Assistant Superintendent Robert Wilson explained that looking for behavior signs is already part of their training.
Bullock also added to the mental health discussion when he stated that budget cuts in the mental health department has severely limited law enforcement.
Identification cards, buzzers at doors, cell phone signal boosters, and increased security were also options discussed.
In other business, the board approved dropping the positions of crossing guard and have the guards located at the school building instead. Cornman and French voted against the decision stating they believed the position of crossing guard was necessary.
Cook explained that he thinks parents don't want their kids walking to school and the students that are walking, do not use the designated crossing guard intersections.
The resignation of board member Shannon Mungle was accepted.
The board chose the essay winner of the Belcher Scholarship.
The board accepted the annual audit and voted for a line item discussion to be on the January agenda.
Final approval for the Concession Stand Project and the HVAC system was made.
Insurance was renewed.
It was reported that due to property tax discrepancies, Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Sokoloff has informed the Malden School Board that their losses have been $20,000. Those monies were directed to the Campbell School District when they should have been directed toward that Malden School District.
The board discussed the contract with Pepsi concerning the sign the company would be sponsoring. According to Green, Mayor Ray Santie had approached him about combining funds to build a sign that both the school and City would use. The contract with Pepsi has already been in development and the general consensus of the board was that in order to avoid communication issues from arising, it would be better that each entity have their own sign.
January's board meeting was moved to Thursday, January 17 in order to allow time for January's bills to arrive.
Elementary Principal Kent Luke reported that second and third graders have been participating in an online math contest and are currently in second place out of fifty participating schools.
Cook reported that attendance levels have improved.