GRIFFITH — Several parents brought concerns about school safety to the School Board on Thursday.
Their comments came in the wake of a recent incident when an 18-year-old Griffith High School student turned in a loaded gun to the school resource officer after saying he had forgotten it was in his pocket.
Police say he did have a valid permit to carry the weapon, but he was arrested on felony charges.
School safety concerns are rising among parents after the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school last month in which 17 people, 14 of them students, were killed.
Dr. Conie Taslim said she thinks the school administration has a lack of urgency in taking measures to increase safety.
"We now know that one of our 18-year-old students carries a loaded gun," she said.
Taslim said the school district needs to go beyond the common response of increasing police presence and take additional steps such as wand searches and/or metal detectors.
"I want everyone to rest assured that it is at the top of our agenda," board Secretary Gary Sutton said about school safety.
He also said that metal detectors are a "big, big decision" for a school system to require its students to pass through every day.
Such a requirement sends a message that a school is unsafe, he said.
Another parent said her child was attacked last week by another student and the attacker was allowed to return to school early for ISTEP testing, which made her child feel unsafe and uncomfortable.
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"You know these issues with some of these students in the schools, and you need to take care of that," she said.
The mother also said many kids come home needing to use the restroom badly, because they are not allowed to leave the classroom to go.
"You can't make them sit all day," she said.
Monica Alvarez told the board that more strict protocols are needed.
Board President Leah Dumezich thanked everyone who voiced their concerns and said students are expected to use the restroom facilities during their personal time out of the classroom.
"We have to keep those hallways safe" by reducing the number of unaccounted students roaming the building.
Acting schools Superintendent Michele Riise said an independent study is being conducted regarding safety in the school system. The outside company is reviewing emergency procedures, drop off/pick up locations and the security systems at each school.
"(They will) provide suggestions for the district and School Board to consider to increase the safety level," Riise said of the safety audit, which will be completed in the spring.
In addition, she said each building has a single entrance open with all other doors locked and secured.
Local law enforcement continues to use the high and middle school buildings to conduct training exercises and perform building-wide searches as they deem appropriate.
"We perform regular, unannounced lockdown and fire drills with our faculty, staff and students," Riise said.