It’s quite simple.
We cannot achieve our mission of providing children with the opportunity to be academically successful without meeting their most basic need - a safe and secure place in which to study and learn. We cannot hire and retain highly effective teachers and school staff to help us meet that mission if we do not have a safe and supportive working environment.
That is why the Lee County School District has strict safety and security protocols which are updated annually as required by the Florida Legislature. In addition, since our schools do not have a common physical layout, each has its own tailored safety plan, also reviewed annually and updated in collaboration with district security staff.
Currently most schools have at least three entrances, one each for busses, parent drop-off, and walkers and bikers. School administrators, SROs and School Safety Specialists greet students at each entrance. Once classes begin, additional entries are closed and locked, resulting in a single point of entry at a majority of schools. All visitors are required to show identification, sign-in, and are escorted to their destination. Classroom and school building exterior doors are locked at all times once the school day starts.
Safe School Training is mandated annually for every employee of the District and we have a powerful professional partnership with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. They provide training in a variety of policing strategies and tactics, and collaborate with active shooter training, which is scheduled to be completed at all of our schools by the end of March. They also share the cost for our School Resource Officers (SROs). Every middle and high school has an SRO on premises and SROs rotate continuously between elementary schools. One week prior to the Parkland school shooting, Superintendent Greg Adkins met with Sheriff Mike Scott about the possibility of increased SRO and police presence at elementary schools and large high schools in the 2018-19 school year. In addition, every school has SRO trained School Safety Specialists.
Every school has surveillance cameras which are being updated from analog to digital. Our newest high school, Bonita Springs, will have adaptive technology cameras installed campus wide. This technology will assist security staff and school administration in proactively identifying and responding quickly to security concerns. Our long-term district maintenance plan calls for upgrading security technology district-wide. In fact, more than $8 million per year of our proposed Sales Tax Initiative is slated for school safety and security enhancements.
One option that many have suggested is metal detectors. We have researched their use statewide, and preliminary findings show no other Florida district has fully deployed them in all of their public schools. We noted a limited use in special centers similar to what is currently in place here in our district. If we go forward with this idea, a minimum of two per school would be needed. If we have only one, every student would be forced to use the same entrance, causing unmanageable backlogs and congestion. Metal detectors would need to be used around the clock, no matter the event, no matter the audience, to ensure someone doesn’t bring a weapon on campus. There are also possible legal ramifications in using a metal detector that would need to be carefully addressed.
The bottom line is that there is no single action our school district can take to increase security. It needs to be a multi-faceted approach that not only includes strengthening buildings and technology, but also strengthening our partnerships with law enforcement, mental health professionals and psychologists who can be part of threat assessment teams in every school.
School safety is a community problem that can be managed with the commitment of every citizen and public official. Our students, staff, families and visitors have the commitment from this board and our District.
Cathleen O'Daniel Morgan, School Board Chairman, District 7