School security increases in Pocatello area, statewide

August 26, 2018

Joe Roholt shows his ID to the security camera outside Irving Middle School in Pocatello on Friday afternoon. As part of a new security initiative everyone entering District 25 schools will now have to provide identification before being allowed access.

When Idaho students return to school this fall, many will be greeted with locked doors, increased security personnel and even armed teachers.

Several state school districts, including Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25, have enacted new security measures, citing concerns about the rise in school shootings nationwide.

New video doorbells were installed at every school in District 25 over the summer as part of the district’s new security program, called Safe Schools: All Day, Every Day. The district is also expanding its prior practice of keeping back and side doors locked during school hours and will now also lock all doors, including the front door.

Visitors to District 25 schools will need to announce who they are and show photo identification to the camera. A member of the school’s office staff who has access to the camera’s video feed will determine if the visitor should be let in. The staff member will walk to the door and escort the visitor in, then allow the visitor to proceed with the normal process of checking in at the office.

School districts throughout the state are also considering new safety measures, partly in response to the panic that occurred among students, parents and school employees after the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

Shortly after the Parkland shooting, the Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center posted a note on the front door of the school informing visitors that authorized staff members were legally armed and would use whatever force is necessary to protect students.

The Preston Citizen reported that at a trustee meeting for the Preston School District held earlier this month, many people spoke in favor of arming teachers.

District officials said at the meeting that they will lock all doors except the main office door to each school and are looking into emergency training for teachers and increased police presence in the schools.

According to an article in the Nampa-based Idaho Press, many school districts in the Treasure Valley are also increasing security in the coming school year.

The Boise School District is implementing a system similar to Pocatello’s. The Boise system is called the Raptor Visitor Management System, which scans visitors’ identifications and provides them with visitor badges with their name, the date and the reason for their visit.

The Middleton School District is increasing its number of full-time school resource officers. They also provided training for teachers with the police and fire department to help them better communicate with first responders in an emergency situation.

Additionally, the Kuna School District will place an unarmed security guard at every school.

The Times-News reported that the Twin Falls School District will also hire 15 unarmed security “paraprofessionals” for the coming school year.

The security people will primarily serve as “an extra set of eyes,” according to the Times-News. They will check in on students and watch for any suspicious activity.

Kuna is using money from a May 2017 bond to help pay for the security personnel. Twin Falls will use money from the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program and federal Title IV funds, in addition to cutting supply budgets by 5 percent to pay for the $375,000 project.

But schools may soon have greater access to funding for security updates.

The Idaho Press reported that Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra plans to propose a $21 million school safety initiative to the Idaho Legislature in January. It would provide every school in the state with $25,500 to be used for security.

According to the Idaho Press, Ybarra’s original plan focused primarily on anti-bullying and suicide prevention. But after the Parkland shooting, she also emphasized school safety and security in her plan.

However, Cindy Wilson, the Democratic nominee to run against Ybarra, said she believes that money would be better spent elsewhere. According to Wilson, many of the security measures being implemented by schools only help “after the fact.”

”What we need to look at in public safety is how we can prevent anyone from even having these thoughts in the first place,” Wilson said. “Let’s be proactive in how we deal with school violence instead of reactive. It almost feels like we’re putting a Band-Aid on something that we should have been dealing with a long time ago.”

Wilson said she would like to focus more on “pre-emptive” measures, as well as the architecture of schools. She highlighted Idaho’s high number of portables, or classrooms detached from the main school building. She said they were extremely vulnerable and hard to defend, so she would like to do away with those. She also said she believes main school buildings should have only one entrance and exit, so it’s easier to defend.

”We need to start looking at designing new buildings with safety in mind and making sure we have locked doors and safe places,” Wilson said.

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