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Of the 11 deadliest shootings in U.S. history, five have taken place since 2007 including killings at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and in Aurora, Colo. Over five events, 99 people have lost their lives. In reaction to events such as these, the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) along with the East administration are working to implement new policies and features at schools to protect the students and staff in their buildings.
New policies are slated to be implemented starting as early as the fourth quarter of this school year including covering windows on doors, monthly code lockdown drills, locked doors during classes and possibly even a rifle stored in the Student Resource Officer’s (SRO) office.
The first change coming to East in the upcoming months is updating the name of code reds to code lockdowns. This is a change occurring across the nation as it will allow for a consistent understanding of what the procedure is. These code lockdown drills will also begin to be practiced on a monthly basis instead of the current rate of two a year.
In addition to changing the name of the drills, they will be more serious for the administration according to Principal Karl Krawitz.
The windows next to doors creates another problem for school administrators. One of the aspects of a code lockdown procedure is to move all students and teachers out of view from these windows. However, in some situations students can be seen or this is not possible. To aid in hiding students from view, school administrators are looking into applying contact paper to these windows. This would allow the windows to be blocked without the need for tape or glue.
Another change the school is considering implementing is locking classroom doors during teaching periods. The drawback to locking doors for teachers is the fact that classroom doors cannot be locked from the inside. This means that for teachers to lock their doors, they must use a key to lock the door from the outside, creating an inconvenience.
Locking doors would help to slow down a would-be perpetrator, something that according to Dr. Krawitz is the first plan of action in case of a school shooting.
“You want to stall [the perpetrator] as much as possible or put up as much resistance as you can in the first six to seven minutes,” Dr. Krawitz said. “That’s what they call the response time needed.”
Although the generally accepted time according to Dr. Krawtiz for slowing down a perpetrator is between six and seven minutes, the time needed to stall an attacker would most likely be less at East because of the proximity to the Prairie Village Police Department.
“Now for East that’s not necessary,” Dr. Krawitz said. “Prairie Village [Police Department] is right there and at any given time there are 20 to 25 officers over there in some capacity that have guns. We aren’t going to have the same response time as some other schools in the district.”
Along with the changes coming to classroom safety, the SROs are looking into improving their office. The first area of renovation that SROs are looking into is changing the current two-way glass in their office to one-way glass. This would allow the officers to see a possible perpetrator walking into the school without the perpetrator seeing the officer.
For the SRO’s, installing one-way glass is the first step in helping their ability to increase the response time. A second upgrade the officers are looking into is storing a rifle inside their office during school hours. These rifles would be taken home by the officer each night. For the officers, having a rifle at school would be a benefit over the current Smith and Wesson M&P pistol. A rifle gives the officer greater accuracy and range, something that is necessary in long hallways according to SRO Joel Porter.
Another benefit that the Prairie Village Police Department gave to East is the three dimensional mapping that the department provided for the school. Over the summer, an officer walked the halls of East with a camera to create a three dimensional map of the school. According to Dr. Krawitz, the mapping is unique to East and allows for more accurate police responses in case of an active shooter.
This three dimensional mapping would allow officers unfamiliar with the building to work with administrators inside the building and cameras to build an accurate idea of where the perpetrator is.
“The program has been placed on the computers in each patrol car,” Porter said. “So officers who are unfamiliar with the building can pull it up quickly to see where they may need to respond. Information can also be relayed to officers outside the building of locations inside where officers are located or help is needed, and officers would be able to find it quickly.”
Although the East administration and SMSD are doing everything in their power to protect the safety of the students and staff at East, these events will continue to occur according to Dr. Krawitz.
“You could say the unpredictability is becoming the norm,” Dr. Krawitz said. “If the unthinkable and unpredictable is becoming the norm then that is pretty scary. Ten years ago did we worry about mass shootings in our country? I don’t think so.”