Redesigned safety protocol aims to strengthen school security

The implementation of new policies across Elmbrook follows an increase in concerns for student safety

April 20, 1999: a school shooting at Columbine High School drastically changed the way schools in the United States were viewed. No longer were schools associated with just desks, textbooks, and algebra tests, but also with gunshots, lockdowns, and dead victims. According to The Washington Post’s database of school shootings, over 228,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine. As an act to prevent Brookfield Central High School from being an addition to such devastating statistics, various policies regarding intruders and school security have recently changed and are being more emphasized to prioritize student safety.

After Columbine, schools across America began to implement “lockdowns” in order to protect students in classrooms in case of a dangerous intruder. Brookfield Central was no exception. But this year, lockdowns aren’t viewed as the most practical way to protect students and staff in schools. This is because lockdowns limit the escape routes people could potentially take during a threatening situation.

In place of lockdowns, Elmbrook now plans to implement what is known as “The Standard Response Protocol,” which was created by the I Love U Guys Foundation, which is an organization founded in 2006 and works with schools to find the best ways to keep students safe. According to the I Love U Guys Foundation’s website, The Standard Response Protocol “is based not on individual scenarios but on the response to any given situation.” When experiencing a threatening situation, there are five specific actions people should consider taking: Lockout, Lockdown, Evacuate, Shelter, or Hold. It is important to note the difference between Lockout and Lockdown. A Lockout is where entry to the school is blocked, while a Lockdown is where classrooms are locked and lights are turned off.

But enforcing stricter security policies hasn’t always been the case at Central. When asked if he felt security has become increasingly tighter overtime at Central, Mr. Lopez responded, “Yes, there’s a big emphasis on keeping the doors locked and a big emphasis on knowing how to get out of here.” He then lamented, “Which, I think is a little sad, you know, just because I think we should be learning, having a good time and working with each other, and not having to focus on threats.”

Brookfield Central has also drastically altered the policies surrounding classroom doors over time. When asked if keeping doors locked has always been the case at Central, Mrs. Ordinans replied, “No, if anything, it was the opposite. I feel funny when I’m closing and locking my door, because it feels like I’m saying ‘no, don’t come in,’” Before Columbine, these practices were almost nonexistent in schools. “That word, active shooter, was never in anyone’s vocabulary when I first started teaching.” Mrs. Ordinans explained. But over time and especially for this school year, teachers keeping doors locked are being more emphasised as a crucial part of school safety.

Furthermore, during the 2018-2019 school year, Elmbrook Schools introduced the STOPit app for student anonymous reporting. The STOPit app is one way students can report suspicious behaviors that could potentially be harmful to others.“You gotta be willing to speak up and going out on that limb. I’d rather it be a false alarm than not be said at all and something bad happening,” Lopez adds.

Though we live in a safe and well-guarded community, one can never be too safe. After a recent meeting with the associate principal, Mr. Bauer, he stated that he has been in an unsafe situation where firearms were involved. In his old district, a student had brought in a gun, which he claimed was just for hunting, but due to the safety of the students and the school as a whole, the student was expelled. “The Raptor system is new as of last year though,” he stated. With the raptor system, visitors must present their driver’s license or a form of ID, which is then scanned and sent through a database to confirm that they are not an offender.

In addition, Mr. Bauer and Mr. Gruetzmacher stated that the students in this school and even our community could help by downloading the STOPit app and reporting incidents. While the school doesn’t have any additional changes or features to add as of now, Mr. Bauer believes that “see something say something,” can stop any situation from escalating significantly.

This “see something say something” is what Mr. Gruetzmacher enforces daily. He is an advocate for student safety and for students to reach out when they or someone they love is in need of it. Luckily, Mr. Gruetzmacher stated, “I have not, thankfully, had experience with a school shooting.” In his interview, he noted that in another school for which he was an administrator, he and his team were able to prevent this incident. He went on to clarify that, “One in my previous district was averted, thankfully, based on information that was given. Information is the key.” He went on to emphasize that the best way students can help is by telling an administrator when they see a concern-raising situation.

The school, over a period of time, has implemented some specific measures in order to keep us safe. Some changes that have come about in recent years are the addition of shatterproof windows, locked doors, newly updated cameras and they have also done background checks on new visitors. Mr. Gruetzmacher explained that “It’s important that we know who is in the building. As visitors come to BC, they must swipe their ID which runs a background check on people to know if that person is concerning.”

Some different procedure changes include the idea of evacuation instead of lockdown. Mr. Gruetzmacher explains that now, evacuations may be more beneficial. If, hypothetically, there was a threat in one side of the building, allowing the other safe side of the school to evacuate would be a beneficial solution. In addition to the actual drill procedure changing, the presentation that all students and teachers are to see has also changed. He said, “The idea is that the more people know, the better they can make a response.”

A new change that is soon coming to BC is the addition of a school resource officer. He will be coming in January of 2020.

Mr. Gruetzmacher encourages students to speak up when there is something that needs to be said. The best way students can help prevent these incidents is by being friendly and informative to peers and staff. If they find themselves in a situation unable to help a friend, they should reach out to a faculty member.
In Wisconsin, there have been five gun threats and shootings in the twenty years since Columbine. It is important to both be aware of these shootings and know what to do in the worst case, but to also not be stressed about being in the school. School administrators have put in measures to keep the educational community safe and protected so students don’t have to keep it in ther back of their minds.