Sunday, April 14

Palm Beach County School Board to discuss updated security policy

Keeping your kids safe at school is the number one priority for educators and always top of mind for parents.

Now, Palm Beach County School District leaders are revising security policies to further solidify what’s expected on every campus.

With the addition of metal detectors making their way to all high school campuses in Palm Beach County, the school board next Wednesday will review additions to its School Campus and District Facility Security policy.

It outlines screening procedures for using the metal detectors, what to do if the detector goes off and how to handle what may be found. WPTV has confirmed Spanish River Community High School, Atlantic Community High School, Suncoast High School and Riviera Beach Preparatory and Achievement Academy will all roll out metal detectors next week as part of the school district’s plan to have the devices on every high school campus by the end of this school year.

“We’re still piloting it, because we still have some practice to do and training to go to, but the policy just outlines the purpose of the metal detector program and what we do or dont do,” Palm Beach County School Police Chief Sarah Mooney said.

Palm Beach Central High School teacher Eric Jourgensen called it a well-oiled machine.

“This week we’ve been completely on time, so it does become a new normal,” he said of using the metal detectors.

Jourgensen’s school added the layer of security a few weeks ago.

“I don’t think there’s any downside to having them, there’s always the inconvenience but we are inconvenienced in everyday life,” he said.

Jourgensen also supports another new part of the security policy, which addresses making sure every classroom has a “hard corner” or safe space where students can’t be seen through a window, in the case of an emergency.

“The good and the bad, teachers will do anything for our kids,” he said. “Schools are trying to adapt the best we can to still providing that top quality education to our students, while keeping them and ourselves safe.”

Mooney said this is already happening throughout the district and has been for years, but having it written down in policy makes it mandatory.

“So, that its crystal clear what the expectations are. To ensure that all of our staff members are aware of what they have to do, not just best practice,” she said. “So, if theres an emergency and they do a lockdown, those are the areas where students would house themselves until the threat is mitigated.”

School board member Erica Whitfield said the district is doing everything possible to keep students and staff safe.

“I don’t love it, I don’t think it’s something anybody wants to do, but it’s the reality we live in,” she said.

She noted that teachers have gotten creative in how to handle these tough situations with their younger students.

“It’s got to be done at an age appropriate level, so for smaller kids they make it a smaller name,” she said. “One calls it ‘The Tiger Den,’ so the kids know if we are going to go through a test of that situation, everyone knows where to go.”

The chief said all of this together creates safer schools.

“Were going to continue to add layers one step at a time, theres not any one piece of it thats more important than the other, other than personnel,” Mooney said.

The policy also requires administrators do a security sweep of the campus before the school day begins. Another practice Mooney said is already happening.

“We do that anyway, its basically a perimeter search,” she said. “You come on everyday and check the campus, make sure everything looks like its supposed to.”

To read the policy, click here.

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