School board looks at building security; safety measures

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Every school district in Minnesota is re-examining its school safety measures and working on ways to improve them as the nation comes to grips with one tragic school shooting after another.

Benson Public School’s focus on school safety was heightened when a former student made threats against faculty and the community during a holiday basketball tournament in late December. That concern was raised again following the murder of 14 students and three faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, Feb. 14.

At its meeting March 19, the District 777 Board of Education discussed measures the Benson schools have taken to improve security. Currently, state legislation allows the school board to levy $36 per pupil under the Safe Schools program. That raises about $30,000, which goes toward the salary of a school resource officer.

Benson’s School Resource Officer Paula Wilson is currently going through ALICE training and learning how to train others.

“That is the best thing out there,” School Board Member Bill McGeary said.

The ALICE training program is designed to supplement current “Lock-down” or “Secure-in-Place” procedures used frequently in public schools.

Tragic events have dictated the need for new and enhanced response options to increase chances of surviving the shootings, the ALICE program says.

ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.

“ALICE training is a different way to react to a situation in the building,” Supt. Dennis Laumeyer said. “Instead of going to your room and hiding, and waiting for it to be over, it is ‘run, hide, fight.’”

“It is a version of ‘run, hide, fight,’” McGeary said. “Schools, for some reason, never like to use the word ‘fight.’ I can’t imagine why. That is the only way to handle a bully.”

“The only way you would lockdown is if it was the way to plan your escape,” McGeary said. “That is the whole idea behind lockdown. It is to give you time to plan your escape, or your attack, one of the two.  And it works.”

If Wilson is going to get that training, then she can pass it on “and repeat, and repeat, and repeat,” McGeary, who is certified as an ALICE instructor, said. He received training last August and there is already a refresher course being offered. McGeary is the Swift County emergency manager. “They found something else,” he said of the refresher course being offered.

McGeary also said he would like to see the school district increase its school resource officer compliment to more than one. How it is going to be paid for can be discussed down the road. He added that the school district could talk to the Swift County Sheriff’s Office and Benson police about stopping by the schools when they are patrolling, randomly stop in two or three times a day....


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