Keeping safety a priority in schools

2013-11-17T00:00:00Z Keeping safety a priority in schoolsResource Officer Mike Candiano Portage Township Schools nwitimes.com

During the past few decades, school safety and security has become a mandatory part of day to day school operations.

In response to the violence that has sprung up across our country and within our schools, Portage Township Schools and local law enforcement continually evaluate security measures and look to make improvements.

There are currently two Portage Police Officers assigned as School Resource Officers at Portage Township Schools. Including the SROs, PTS will have seven Indiana School Safety Specialists, including principals and administrators, certified though the state by the end of the year. Beginning next year, PTS will begin getting support staff members (transportation, maintenance, food service, etc.) certified. Indiana Safe Schools Specialists initially receive training in various areas including creating safety plans, responding to critical incidents, dealing with natural disasters, recognizing threats, etc. Specialists then receive continuing education in the areas of safety and security each year and meet with other members from around the state to exchange ideas, information, experiences, etc.

PTS has also established a security committee, which meets regularly and discusses numerous aspects of security, including: camera systems, entrance/exit procedures, staff training, police response, building assessments, etc. The committee includes members of the Portage Police Department, principals, support staff, school board members, and representatives from the superintendent’s office.

In part from recommendations made by the committee, several PTS schools underwent construction during the past summer. Entrances at these schools were reconfigured to require visitors entering the main doors, to funnel into the respective main offices after being admitted by school personnel.

Representatives from Portage Township Schools, including the SROs, are also members of the Porter County Safe Schools Commission. The commission includes representatives from Porter County law enforcement agencies and other first responders, each Porter County school corporation, juvenile services, daycares, mental health and counseling agencies, the Porter County Prosecutor’s Office, and many other groups and organizations.

This commission also meets regularly and is involved in building assessments, policy creation and review, training, etc. The commission has allowed for accessible information sharing between the various groups involved in school safety.

Another, often overlooked element to security, is the recognition of early warning signs from troubled individuals. To help address this, PTS has Home School Advisors at each of the district schools. Home School Advisors strive to promote life-long learning through a positive and safe school experience. They are qualified professionals who have specialized training in counseling, social work, psychology and mental health.

The aspects of school safety and security are constantly changing in response to the changes and behaviors in the world around us. Together, Portage Townships Schools and law enforcement are continually working to adapt and maintain a safe environment for our children.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion.

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