The Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn. shootings are still on parents' minds today, as children return to school after winter break.
Morton Grove Police Chief Mark Erickson, who taught D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) classes in schools before he became police chief, said his department works closely with schools on safety issues, and maintains a daily presence around schools.
"We put such a high priority on this," he said. The department has a close relationship with school administrators, he added, and has done safety training with them as well as with neighboring police departments. Deputy Chief Brian Fenneley works specifically with school safety.
Erickson expects more safety technology will be made available to schools after the Newtown shootings.
"We all have the general feeling now the Obama administration is going to throw millions into this, so video could become the norm. The technology is out there to help protect children," he said, explaining that schools could put security cameras at entrances, playgrounds and other locations around schools.
"We've already had those discussions around schools," he said. Additionally, each school has a way to instantly alert police of an emergency.
While some school districts around the nation have talked about placing police officers at each school, Erickson said the question of whether that would be necessary and cost-efficient must be looked at.
"Would it be effective to have officers in the schools? Of course. Would it prevent someone from shooting? Maybe not, but it could mitigate the damage," he said.
"How much money as a nation are we going to be willing to throw at this?" he questioned.
School architecture also comes into play when security is discussed. Erickson said at some schools, people enter the building and stand in a holding area before they are buzzed in to the school. But while schools should make it difficult for intruders to enter, they also must make it easy for students to escape in an emergency, he observed.
Schools in Morton Grove include:
- Park View School
- Hynes School
- Golf Middle School
- MCC Full-Time School
- Malloy Educational Center
- Edison School
- Melzer School
- Jerusalem Lutheran School
The Morton Grove Police Department sent out this statement regarding the Newtown shootings and school safety:
The Village of Morton Grove Board of Trustees and the members of the Morton Grove Police Department, in conjunction with local school administrators and teachers, are deeply saddened to learn of the massacre that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of the innocent victims.
The foremost duty of our police agency is to protect our citizens; we are honored to serve, no matter the risk. As all Americans have endured school related and similar type tragedies for the past decade, many questions have been raised about the safety of our children, our teachers and our school workforce. The Morton Grove Police Department implemented our high priority School Safety Initiative in 2009, which includes proactive school neighborhood patrol, multiple school safety checks on a daily basis, active school visits, safety discussions with school administrators, and on-site tactical training in our school buildings by Morton Grove police officers. We thank our school administrators who allow us to aggressively train for critical incident response in school buildings when they are available.
Due to our initiatives and great partnerships, a higher police presence and visibility, as well as a proactive tactical response to any critical incident in our schools has been achieved. We understand the realities of potential tragedy in any school related incident and recognize community outreach and partnerships are vitally important. We continuously look for new and innovative ways to protect our children, and will continue to actively partner with our school districts and other stakeholders to achieve a positive and safe learning environment in our schools.