ST. JOHN — Two residents asked the Lake Central School Board on Tuesday what is being done to prevent an attack like the recent shooting in a Florida school that killed 17 people, 14 of them students.
Kelly Arndt and Andrijana Corak said the schools should consider putting in metal detectors, arming teachers and having a police officer on each floor of the schools. They said the district includes three communities, Dyer, Schererville and St. John, and each could provide an officer. The St. John Police Department provides a school resource officer at the high school.
They asked if the high school is locked during the day, and Superintendent Larry Veracco said only the door to the main office is open and people have to be let in electronically.
However, he said, if someone approached one of the other doors, a student might let them in, because the students are "nice kids." Arming teachers isn't feasible because "it's not what they are trained for," he said.
"We have an open society," Veracco said. "What other steps can we take to increase law enforcement's presence in the schools, because it's not just the high school? We have 10 schools. Putting 3,200 kids at the high school through the metal detector each day is just not feasible."
Board member Sandy Lessentine said, "I don't want my kids going through a metal detector or being 'wanded' (with a hand held detector). I hope we don't have to live in a society that needs that, but I also don't want to live in a society where we have to teach elementary students code red (for active-shooter) drills."
Veracco said the police departments are demonstrating a presence at the schools in the mornings and afternoons, and maybe the School Board could compensate them for that or maybe pay for even more of a presence.
Veracco said after the meeting it was the first time anyone has brought the issue of school safety to the board despite the frequent occurrence of these tragedies in recent years.
"We have to be careful where we take this. We have to decide what the happy medium is between creating peace of mind without creating anxiety. We can't create security that will be 100 percent effective," he said.
Arndt said it would only cost about $35 per student to put in detectors, and Corak said, "Not even one child should die. The school should be a safe place. I don't have any kids of my own, but I'm raising a niece and I would pay extra to keep one kid alive." Both said they were shocked at the small number of parents who attended the meeting.
Board member Howard Marshall said he has confidence in the administration to do what is needed. Board member Janice Malchow said of the news stories that "it breaks my heart that it is happening, and this would be a perfect use of money from the referendum."
"We live in a free society, and we don't want to change that," Veracco said. "As a society, we are vulnerable. Violence didn't used to come into the schools."