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School security

School security

School officially starts for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School (WS/FCS) system students on Monday, and many efforts have been made to make schools safer and more secure for everyone.
On Tuesday, the media was invited to East Forsyth High School to see and hear about the changes in school safety protocol and practices for the upcoming year. WS/FCS Chief Security Officer Jonathan Wilson, East Forsyth Principal Rusty Hall and others were at the press conference and informed the media.
One change this school year is the adoption of a Standard Response Protocol. Under “hold,” students will stay in the classroom and it will be business as usual. Under “secure,” there is something potentially dangerous outside and all students will come into the school. Under “lockdown,” obviously, the entire school is locked down. The final stages of the Standard Response Protocol are “shelter” and “evacuate.” The goal of the Standard Response Protocol is to have everyone, from students, teachers and first responders, use the same terms for any incident to prevent any confusion.
Hall noted that in past years when there was a potentially dangerous situation at a school, there was some confusion.
“The term ‘community lockdown’ is confusing because all people hear is ‘lockdown.’ Having set terms and protocol is less frightening for parents,” said Hall.
On Aug. 11, district administrators and first responders came together for an all-day training session on the Standard Response Protocol led by the “I Love U Guys” Foundation. John-Michael Keyes, the executive director of the foundation, led the training session. The “I Love U Guys” Foundation was started in 2006 by Ellen and John-Michael Keyes following a school shooting at Platte Canyon High School in Colorado that took the life of their daughter, Emily. On that day, Emily sent two text messages – one to her mother, Ellen, “I love u guys. K” and one to her father, John-Michael, “I love you guys.”
Due to a federal safety grant, all WS/FCS high schools and middle schools will have two Garrett metal detectors.
“We got this brand because they are on casters, so we can move them around. If a school has a large event, two metal detectors might not be sufficient enough. For example, on Friday, East Forsyth used the ones from East Forsyth Middle School for the football game,” Wilson said.
It was explained that the metal detectors will be used primarily for events at a given school or if there is a verified threat at a school.
When needed, WS/FCS high schools and middle schools will also have access pads to buildings this year and more high-tech cameras.
Wilson noted that different schools have different safety and security issues.
“At a school like Reagan, you would not need keypads if the entries are locked like they are supposed to be. We have to trust students on their own campus. It is their school and their second home. East Forsyth and West Forsyth are very unique compared to the other schools in the district that are all in one building,” Wilson said. “The cameras we got from the 2016 school bond only had one angle. The technology has improved and now, at a place like East where you have a quad, the camera has four angles.”
For events at schools this school year, the approved bags people can have are clear plastic or vinyl bags, one-gallon clear plastic freezer bags, small clutch bags, bags for medically necessary items and diaper bags. All of these containers are subject to being searched. Some of the prohibited bags include purses larger than a clutch bag, briefcases, back packs, fanny packs, cinch drawstring bags, luggage of any kind and computer/camera bags.
WS/FCS has also formed a Safety and Security Department. Wilson is the chief safety, security and emergency management officer. The team has a director of security that oversees student resource officers (SROs), night security, traffic control and event security. There are two campus security managers. One will cover the north and east of the county and the other will cover south and west of the county. Their job will be to assist with planning and campus assessment. The director of security technology will oversee all school security technology. There is also a safety and emergency management coordinator who will gather information to help keep the schools more safe and secure.
For Hall, the importance of school safety cannot be overestimated.
“I and my entire staff love your children as if they were our children. We are not making rules up out of the blue, and it is important for students and parents to know why we are making them,” said Hall. “The No. 1 thing that helps the safety of a campus is relationships with the children. When you have a standard policy, it flows automatically and the more it becomes second nature. No two days at a school are the same at a high school and you never know what might happen.”
Teachers at East Forsyth and other schools are being trained this week on the Standard Response Protocol and the new security practices. WS/FCS students will be trained on all of this when they come to school next week.

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