Audit shows student safety headed in right direction

Police and student representation during the active shooter drill held at Hahnville High School last year.
Police and student representation during the active shooter drill held at Hahnville High School last year.

The level of security afforded students in St. Charles Parish is trending in the right direction.

An audit of the parish’s five elementary schools shows just one percent of safety-related items were rated unsatisfactory, according to a presentation given before the School Board and the public by Kade Rogers, Public Schools director of Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness.

The audit examined items at Norco, Allemands, Mimosa Park, Lakewood and St. Rose elementary schools. The number represents an estimated drop of 16 percent from the last elementary audit, which was held in 2013.

Some 122 items were assessed at each school during the elementary audit, which included responsibilities of the schools themselves, the maintenance, child nutrition and transportation departments and the school district.

At Norco Elementary, the number of unsatisfactory items dropped from 49 to 25; at Allemands from 42 to 27; at Mimosa Park from 45 to 31; at Lakewood from 50 to 35; and at St. Rose from 40 to 28.

The audit incorporated input from a team that included faculty, administrators and personnel from the individual schools and district as well as the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, St. Charles Parish Hospital, homeland security, fire department and EMS. Student interviews were also conducted, as well as administrator and teacher interviews.

Last year, the parish’s middle and high schools were audited, and similar results were found: three percent of items were found to be unsatisfactory, which represented a 16 percent drop as well.

Though the results were similar, Rogers said safety measures taken at each level aren’t completely uniform — an elementary school, for example, involves protecting a playground from intruders.

“It’s a bit of a different animal, though the majority of things are the same. We just have to look at it from a different angle, because it’s a different environment,” Rogers said.

One of the greatest boons to safety measures, he believes, are the vestibules found in the front of each school that stand between the student body and the outside world. With the vestibules, which were installed following a 2015 bond issue passed to enhance safety measures at the parish’s schools, campus visitors must be given access electronically to open the doors. Those vestibules provide a single point of entry to the schools, which are enclosed within fencing elsewhere on the campus.

Other things that have helped matters have been the elimination of portable classrooms, as well as the implementation of the Raptor system, which was implemented in 2016 to better screen campus visitors.

Under the Raptor program, visitors will supply their ID to a member of the staff at the front desk. The staff member will then scan the ID, which will draw the person’s name and birthday. It will then check the person’s name against the United States Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Registry.

Rogers said Raptor is utilized at every school, and that since it was implemented the capability has been added for faculty and staff to scan the information through a barcode marker on identification.

“So if there’s an incident at Hahnville, I can pull up all visitors, faculty and staff who are on campus immediately,” he said. “I can pull whatever information they have from my office.”

Cameras at the schools can also be accessed, and the availability of emergency plans from an online source gives a reference point for parents, students or faculty members who wouldn’t have a paper-document with them to do so.

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