Local districts review security measures

2012-12-17T17:30:00Z 2012-12-19T13:13:27Z Local districts review security measuresCarmen McCollum carmen.mccollum@nwi.com, (219) 662-5337 nwitimes.com

School districts across Northwest Indiana are reassessing their security plans in the wake of the massacre of 26 children and adults Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Some local school districts, including the Valparaiso Community Schools and the School Town of Munster, had officers on site at schools Monday as a visible presence to students and parents.

Valparaiso Superintendent Mike Berta said he emailed principals over the weekend and talked to police officials. Berta instructed school principals to reassure parents that safety procedures have been reviewed. Berta said counselors were available to talk with students as needed.

Munster School Superintendent Richard Sopko said he and Munster police officials "thought it would be a good idea to have officers at every building in case there was a copy-cat and to send a message that we have things under control."

Sopko said there will be a police presence at every school every day this week, and the school security team will meet Wednesday to re-evaluate its plan.

Almost every local school district locks the doors of all its schools and requires visitors to be buzzed into the buildings. Many school districts have police officers who roam the halls and serve as school resource officers. Some schools, like those in the Gary Community School Corp. and the Roosevelt College & Career Academy in Gary, have metal detectors at their building entrances. Roosevelt, which is now operated by a Tennessee-based management company, added more metal detectors this school year.

Gary school district spokeswoman Charmella Greer said roving police officers are in school buildings throughout the district.

At Aspire Charter Academy in Gary, once visitors are buzzed in, they are required to register through a computerized system called Lobby Guard, which runs the driver's license through a national criminal database, and will print out a visitor's pass with a picture.

Portage Police Chief Troy Williams said the department is committed to providing a greater presence at Portage schools. As a former school resource officer, Williams, who became chief Jan. 1, said the public may see an officer typing a report -- while in the school parking lot -- or running radar or just stopping in the school to say, "Hi."

"I have also spoken with our school resource officers (Mike Candiano and Greg Coleman)," Williams said. "There are school safety plans in place and they are routinely updated as needed. Additionally, our schools run safety drills every month."

Union Township School Corp. Superintendent John Hunter sent a letter to parents Dec. 15 saying, "the school safety team will be meeting this week to review the details of the Sandy Hook incident and discuss how we can improve the safety of our students."

Thornton Fractional Township High School District 215 Superintendent Creg Williams said district officials have weekly reviews of security measures to keep apprised of any actions involving a student or an outside person who might be perceived as a security threat. He said that review will get extra attention this week.

The Lansing Police Department issued a press release Monday saying the Police Department has taken steps to increase its presence in and around Lansing schools, parking lots and day care centers.

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