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Security checks turn up nothing suspicious at La Follette High School following nearby shooting

September 28, 2018

Students line up outside of Madison's La Follette High School on Thursday morning as they wait to be screened with metal detectors after a shooting two blocks from the school left a student injured Wednesday.

Nothing suspicious was found Thursday morning as about 1,600 students and their backpacks were checked by metal detector wands as they entered La Follette High School a day after a student was injured in a shooting nearby.

Joe Balles, safety and security coordinator for the Madison School District, said the number of metal detector wands for security screenings at the Southeast Side high school will be doubled Friday for the second day of increased safety procedures.

“Considering it was equivalent to boarding 12 airplanes in about an hour, it went pretty good,” he said of the screenings.

Madison police officers were also at the high school in case anything turned up in the screenings, Balles said.

School district security staff will use eight wands instead of four during screenings Friday to speed up the process, he said.

Going into next week, Balles said school district officials will continue to assess the situation and whether the screenings should continue based on information from the Police Department about the shooting that left a 16-year-old La Follette student with non-life-threatening injuries.

The student was found walking in the area where a fight took place near the intersection of Turner Avenue and Linda Vista Road, about two blocks from the high school on Pflaum Road. Witnesses reported a fight between several young men and at least one gun being fired shortly after 10:30 a.m., police said.

No one has been arrested for the shooting.

“We’re working very closely with MPD with respect to helping them get to the main individuals that were involved in this conflict here that led to the gunfire,” Balles said.

Students were also barred from leaving campus for lunch Thursday, which will continue Friday. Balles said it resulted in several food delivery drivers showing up at the school at 702 Pflaum Road.

It took a little more than an hour to get all the students through screening, wrapping up around 8:49 a.m., Balles said. The school day starts at 8:16 a.m.

With the additional metal detectors, students will be able to enter the school at two points Friday — either through the A foyer entrance by the flagpoles off Pflaum Road or the Welcome Center entrance.

“Hopefully the process is going to go a little more efficiently,” Balles said.

Balles, who was a Madison police officer for more than 30 years before joining the school district, said he does not recall a previous time where all students of a Madison school had to be screened before entering.

Last week, a 15-year-old Madison School District student was arrested after police say he accidentally shot two 16-year-old students on a Metro Transit bus near La Follette High School. A district spokeswoman would not say what schools the three attend, but police said the 15-year-old arrested was not a student at La Follette.

“To deal with two of these incidents in seven days, that’s a lot for any school to bear,” Balles said.

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