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Huntington schools proactive on safety

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SCHOOL SAFETY: School officialsrecently met with members of local law enforcement, including members of the HCCSC School Safety Team; HCCSC School Board members; Sheriff Terry Stoffel, Huntington County Sheriff’s Department; Chief Chad Hacker, Huntington Police Department; and Officer Brian Double, Resource Officer at Huntington North High School.
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RESOURCE OFFICER:Huntington North High School sophomores Nick Sheiber and Bayleigh Double talking to Brian Double, Huntington North High School school resource officer, and Brianna Shane, HNHS sophomore.

By JENNIFER PERYAM - jperyam@h-ponline.com

The topic of school safety has taken on new urgency in the wake of recent shootings at schools nationwide.

Just last month, a 19-year-old used an assault rifle to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Huntington County Community Schools officials sat down with The Herald-Press last week to discuss what they are doing to make sure students, staff and those who visit the high school are safe.

Safety programs in place

Jami Craft, Huntington North High School dean and safety committee chair, coordinates safety plans for the high school, middle and elementary schools.

“Our doors are locked during the day and we use a system called Raptor. When someone comes into our building, they are required to present an ID that goes in the database and specifies what they are in the building for,” Craft said.

This is the second year Huntington schools have used the Raptor system.

There are video cameras at all the schools. The Raptor system ensures that sex offenders do not enter the school buildings.

The school district holds active shooter training, called the ALICE program, every other month at the high school. Safety training also is conducted at elementary and middle schools.

“It teaches our students and teachers that, in the event of an active shooter, they have the choice to lock down and barricade their classroom to increase their survivability, or they can evacuate the building,” Craft said.

When asked if she thought Huntington School Corporation is safe, Craft said, “Absolutely.” She said that the corporation is doing everything it can to assure safety for students and staff.

Craft said the ALICE training teaches participants to identify behaviors that are not normal and how to report the behaviors.

She said it is important for teachers and students to complete the training to keep people aware of how they can respond to an emergency.

Craft said there is a Safe Schools Commission comprised of 30 people from the community, administrators and law enforcement who meet to talk about how to partner to provide safety measures in the schools.

When dealing with mental health issues, the corporation partners with the Youth Services Bureau and Bowen Center to provide counseling as well as peer mediation.

Reacting to threats

Randy Harris, superintendent, said the school system does receive threats and when there are threats the corporation investigates immediately. When there have been threats on social media, law enforcement has been contacted immediately.

“We look at all the information we have and get the school resource officer and police immediately involved,” Harris said.

He said the high school is a large building with over 1,700 entering and exiting the building each day.

“We take seriously education and the safety and security of all the people coming in our schools,” Harris said.

He said corporation officials talk to law enforcement on a daily basis and school safety is being discussed on a regular basis throughout the district.

Craft said there is a system called School Messenger that parents can sign up for that will notify parents and students about a threat.

Parents can receive emails or text messages through the system regarding threats.

School resource officer

Brian Double, HNHS school resource officer, has been at the high school for six years. He’s there every day of the school week from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

“My duties are to provide safety and security and mentor and council students,” Double said. He also visits the middle and elementary schools to meet with students.

He talks to the students about bullying and explores why they are being bullied. When bullying occurs, a form is filled out, taken home to get signed by parents and then law enforcement follows up.

Double said if there was a school shooting, he feels he has adequate backup provided. During lunch time, he has two to three full-time officers who help him him provide extra supervision.

When asked what his thoughts are on allowing teachers to carry guns he said, “I feel a teacher’s job is to teach students and to get them ready for their futures. A teacher being able to carry a gun and being able to take a student’s life, I’m not sure that is something they should have to stress over and worry about.”

National school walkout

It has been publicized that national organizations are encouraging students to participate in a “Walk Out” scheduled for March 14. This marks the one month anniversary of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

The 10 a.m. walk out is anticipated to last for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 lives lost in Florida.

HCCSC has received communication that some of the students will participate in the event. There will be designated areas where students will be allowed to do so.

The area will be supervised by staff and law enforcement to ensure student safety.

Participation in the walk out is not required and students who choose to participate will not be penalized or receive disciplinary consequences as long as they adhere to the parameters.

Governor urges state lawmakers on funding

Governor Eric Holcomb has asked Indiana lawmakers to authorize $5 million more for school safety spending before they adjourn for the 2018 legislative session.

Holcomb sent a letter to Republican and Democrat House and Senate leaders with the request.

“No place is 100 percent safe. I think all schools in Indiana are much safer than they were 8 to 10 years ago,” Harris said.

He said that over the past three years HCCSC had received a matching grant from the state that was used to install video cameras and the Raptor system. He said the corporation already is expending local dollars for school safety, but more funds from the state would allow for increased safety.

“Anything the governor would put forward to increase safety in schools I support,” Harris said.

School Safety Meeting

HCCSC will hold a school safety meeting on April 3 at 7 p.m. at Huntington North High School in the auditorium.

Members of local law enforcement including the Huntington Police Department and Huntington County Sheriff's Department will be on hand as well as the HCCSC School safety team.


Students, parents and community members are encouraged to attend.

Attendees should use Door 28 to enter.