Getting used to the metal detectors

Connor Petrillo, a sophomore at Brookville Area High School, walks through one of the new metal detectors located in the auditorium lobby prior to the beginning of the school year. All high school students pass through one of five metal detectors each morning upon entering the school. There is also a metal detector at the main entrance for visitors who enter the school during the day.

BROOKVILLE — “We have these systems in place and we will not tolerate inappropriate behavior. Our goal is not to offend and our goal is not to hinder. Our goal is to make it safe. It’s not just a school issue, it’s a community, school and family concern, and we all have to work together,” Ruthanne Barbazzeni said. As principal of student services, she was addressing a group of parents who attended a meeting Wednesday night at the high school to learn about some of the safety procedures to be followed in the Brookville schools this year.

Superintendent Robin Fillman told the audience the Brookville School District “has a security committee that has been very active for about five years. We develop plans every month. We have an all-hazard plan for every hazard that could possibly happen in the district, including, floods, hurricanes, whatever. We are always refining those plans. Security has taken highest priority; it takes everyone.” The committee includes school administrators and staff members, school board members and Police Chief Vince Markle.

“Making sure our students are safe, our faculty and staff are safe is primary in making sure our kids can come to school and learn and not have to fear that someone is going to get hurt,” Barbazzeni said. “We have implemented a lot of variations to our plans, so we can make sure we are addressing every aspect of our safety that we possibly can. We don’t want our students to be scared, but we do want them to be prepared.”

She reviewed several of the safety measures to be used throughout the school year.

Metal detectors

New to the district this year will be the daily use of metal detectors for all students and visitors entering the high school. Five metal detectors will be located in the auditorium, with an additional metal detector located at the main entrance of the school.

All students entering the school will go through the metal detector, and their backpacks will be quickly searched. Conducting the scans and searches will be administrators, faculty and police officers who have been trained to use the system.

Barbazzeni said the metal detectors were a high priority among students who participated in a panel discussion at the end of the last school year. “The feedback was overwhelming to have metal detectors. When Dr. Fillman asked why, their response was that they wanted to be safe and to keep drugs out of the school. The metal detectors are not going to pick up drugs, and that’s not what we are looking for when we search the students. Their response was that it won’t matter; if they know you are going through their stuff, they’re not going to bring it.”

Barbazzeni pointed out that students who have documented medical conditions that will not allow them to pass through the metal detectors will be checked in a different manner.

The metal detector at the front office “will be manned all day, every day, to make sure visitors entering our building are safe,” she said. Visitors will buzz into the office, telling who they are and why they are there. “We hope they will understand this is for security purposes, not because we want to be rude.”

Barbazzeni said the metal detector will not be used daily in the elementary school at this time. “We will use a portable detector that will not be used daily unless there is a concern that is brought to our attention. We will use it periodically so kids know not to bring something into the school. Once they go through that experience they will know that any day could be the metal detector. They will also have the experience and understanding of how to use that, so that when they come to the high school and we are using it every day, it’s efficient,” she said. “We don’t want to scare them. We want to make it a process that is not fearful, but helpful.”

School police officer

A school police officer was the second priority of the students. “The students felt a school police officer (SPO) would build rapport, would give a sense of security because there is someone here that is able to call in other people immediately, and gives that level of authority just with their uniform on, and has an established presence in the school that represents safety.

Last week the school board signed a contract with the Brookville Police Department to have a full-time officer on duty in the high school, with random visits to be made several times each day in the elementary schools. Chief Markle said the officers on duty will rotate, “so no pattern is set.”

The board is looking at additional options for providing additional police presence in the schools.

Photo IDs

Implemented last year was a photo ID system, in which anyone going into any of the school buildings must have their driver’s license or photo ID scanned into the school’s security system. “When someone is coming into our building, we can swipe their license and see if there is any risk with that individual. We can keep a record of that person being in the building and when that person leaves. We are able to identify who is here at all times,” she said. “That is critical, especially in a crisis situation.”

Once a person is scanned into the system he will receive from the secretary a name tag with his photo printed on it, as well as their destination in the building. The name tag will be turned into the office when the visitor is leaving the building.

“We have incredible secretaries that have eagle eyes. They know the community. They are very familiar with our students. If there is something out of sorts, they are letting us know,” Barbazzeni said.

Every building in the district has the photo ID system in place.

Fire drills

“The state requires that every month we have a fire drill,” she said. “Every month that the students are in school we will be conducting fire drills. Some of those drills will be conducted in a method that is going to kind of switch it up a little bit. Once a month we have a fire drill. Everybody exits the building and everybody comes back in. In a real life situation, if there is truly a fire, you may not be able to get out the way that you have practiced. So we are going to try to switch that up a little bit to give them the opportunity to walk out of their classroom and know that [practiced] way is not going to work, so they have to find another way, to help them think on their feet, to make a choice that will help keep them safe.”

Lockdown drills

Lockdown drills are also required by the state. “When we do lockdown drills we are helping kids to understand what that means to be in an area that is quiet, safe and out of sight,” she said. Weather catastrophe drills also count as lockdown drills. Those drills are conducted so we can give the students the knowledge they need to have if something happens. The purpose is not to traumatize or scare our students, but to help them understand that there are times when we have to do certain things to make sure we are safe.”

Active shooter drills

Barbazzeni said active shooter drills have been held at Hickory Grove and the high school, using volunteer staff members. “Our goal for those drills is to help teachers recognize when there are things going on in the building that they need to take a safe stand. We shared with them the opportunity to hear what a gunshot sounds like in a building, to smell what it would be like if there were multiple shots in the building, to prepare for being in a place that is secure for a period of time and what to do when it comes time to evacuate.”

“Every time we run a drill, we evaluate that drill to determine what the areas of strength are and what are the areas of weakness,” Barbazzeni said. “When we do a lockdown drill with our faculty and staff, we are evaluating, what did we miss. We try to make it as realistic as possible.”

Parent pamphlets

“We have developed a parent pamphlet that shows how you, as a parent, should respond if you find your school is in crisis,” she said. “Coming to the school is obviously not the best option. Knowing that information will be shared with the public at certain times is critical. But if every parent showed up at the high school, the emergency responders would certainly have a very difficult time getting here and having control over the situation. We want you to understand where you need to be.”

Mental health

Barbazzeni said, “We also talked about more support with regards to students with mental health issues. The students are feeling we need to provide more support for students who need someone to talk to, or someone they can go to because they are concerned about someone else. We are exploring that option with pulling in more support with a school psychologist and possibly another counselor. Once the need is identified, wee have a lot of different programs that we have established in school. The school district also has agreements with outside agencies to provide assistance when needed.”

“Obviously all these things cost money. We want these things, we need these things, we want to keep our students safe. But we have to balance that with how much can we afford,” Barbazzeni said. “There is no one answer and there is no perfect place. We’re not perfect, but we continue to grow.”

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