Security measures needed at DHS

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, February 24, 2018

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Last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., left me not only heartsick for the families affected, but also teary as I contemplated, ‘What if that happened here?’

Sadly, it could happen anywhere, and although there is no foolproof plan to completely eliminate these attacks, there are steps that can be taken to better secure our local campuses, particularly Decatur High School.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

DHS, and the McCarroll Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade building, are the only DISD campuses that don’t funnel visitors directly into the office.

Anyone who enters a DISD elementary school or McCarroll’s sixth-grade campus cannot enter the main building without first checking in at the office. The front doors of these buildings open into a foyer. The foyer has doors that enter the main building, but these doors remain locked. The only unlocked door in the foyer is the one leading into the main office where guests check in and are assisted by staff.

This is not the case at the high school or McCarroll’s seventh and eighth-grade campus.

At the seventh and eighth grade school, the front doors open into a main hallway, and the office is on the immediate right. Although protocol indicates you should check in at the office before proceeding further into the building, there is nothing in place requiring you to do so. In fact, no one sitting in the main office has a clear line of sight to the front door of the building.

In the high school, the situation is even more worrisome as the front doors enter the main part of the building, and the office is several steps away. If you’ve never been inside DHS, it’s not even immediately obvious where the office is located, and if you’re checking a student out for the day, you walk upstairs to the second-floor office, all of which are unmonitored movements.

At this week’s school board meeting a grandmother spoke in open forum, expressing her concern about the lack of security at the school. She described visiting the campus, approaching the first-floor office, only to discover it was unoccupied. She then wandered around 10 minutes before finally running into someone, who appeared to be a coach and pointed her in the direction of the second-floor office where she was assisted by staff.

Thinking about those 10 unattended minutes and the chaos that could unfold gave me chills.

The lack of security at DHS is something we’ve discussed countless times in the newsroom, but it’s really been weighing on me this week.

Last month the school board authorized the superintendent to engage architects to draw plans and get cost estimates for a classroom addition, coffee shop and athletic facility improvements, all of which are nice, some of which are luxuries.

These projects and the millions of dollars earmarked for their completion should be re-evaluated to include a security upgrade to the high school and middle school campuses.

As a community, we can’t single-handedly cure mental illness or resolve gun control issues, but there are practical steps we can immediately take to better protect our kids.

Why wait?

Kristen Tribe is assistant publisher of the Wise County Messenger.

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