December 16, 2012, is a date many in Connecticut and across the nation will never forget. A gunman walked into an elementary school and killed 26 people. Twenty of the victims were children. Since then, 14 other schools across the nation have had shootings, including one in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
So what is the newest school in Northeast Central Durham doing about protecting students from random violence?
Maureen Joy Charter School has a plan in place. Armed with cameras and a hired off-duty police officer in the front of the building, this school is tightly secured. The doors are locked shut with only one way of entering the building: you have to get buzzed in by the administrative staff.
Timothy Rhue, the dean of students, says that Durham Public Schools have a security plan in place for all schools to follow, should there be a need for it. This plan in tailored to each school, as no one school is the same.
“We have two lock downs, a soft lock down and a hard lock down,” Rhue said. He explained that the soft lock down is a preventative lock down. It is used when an aggressive animal or police chase is going on outside the building. This is a way to keep anyone or thing from coming in or leaving the building. The soft lock down can also be used when someone needs medical assistance and they don’t want the children witnessing the incident, for example, a heart attack.
“For hard lock down, you think about active shooters,” Rhue said. This type of lock down is very specific, from what the children need to do as well as the teachers. During the hard lock down, the students must stand with their backs against the wall. There are two color cards, which are colored response cards. These cards are placed in the classroom windows by the teachers to inform the police of the situation that is going on inside the building. This aids the officers to respond to the area of the school that may need the most police attention.
School safety is a national issue that affects almost every home in the United States. According to Rhue, there are several seminars on this issue nationwide. In these seminars, they learn about what is working in other schools. Those that attend the seminar then take the information that they’ve gathered and try to implement it in their school.
Parents think of schools as havens for their children and trust that the principal and teachers will educate the children for the future. The thought of guns, knives, explosives are far from the minds of many parents.
Jasmin Burnnette, a single parent, has a five-year-old son that attends MJCS. She says she doesn’t know the security measures the school takes when an incident occurs, but she does know that the school is safe.
“I know if something like that was to happen, the school calls or emails each parent,” Burnnette said. She said you have to ring the front bell to go to the office and that there is always an officer in the front of the building.
According to Durham Public School website, “The United States Department of Education, Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, awarded a $250,000 grant to Durham Public Schools to strengthen emergency response and crisis management plans. Durham Public Schools is one of seven school districts in North Carolina, and one of 100 districts nationwide, to receive funding.”
Guns, whether legally or illegally obtained, are the number one weapons currently being used. This violence crosses every ethnic group; socio-economic group, and traverses nationwide, but Durham is taking action to keep schools safe.
More information on Durham Public School safety can be found at, www.dpsnc.net.