Hersey Principal Gordon Sisson knows more about buildnig security and student safety than any of us.  Sadly, it is an all-too-important aspect of his job these days.  
 
Today we welcomed Prospect Assistant Principal Scott McDermott and our speaker, Hersey High School Principal Gordon Sisson as well as our District Governor Rodney Adams who stopped by to check in on his Home Club.  
 
Gordon had a talk prepared for us today, but recent events at his school prompted him to change his topic.  
 
Last week, Gordon received a phone call from a parent whose child (and Hersey student) told him of a Twitter rumor about someone bringing a gun to school the next day.  He walked us through his process after that call.  
 
Working with the authorities and school and district administration, the first goal was to follow the rumor back to it's source and from there, to the student who purportedly made the threat.  Once that was done, they had to determine if any students were in immediate harm.  They learned that the student in question did not have ready access to firearms - there were none in his home, etc.  With that information, Gordon declared the school was safe and would be open the next day.  
 
Throughout this process, Gordon had to balance what he told parents and students against the legal rights of the student who made the threat.  Crafting a statement explaining what had been done and why the school would be open the next day was a delicate task.  Fortunately, it was successful and prevented widespread panic among parents and students.   
 
With the school opening the next day, Gordon decided to have a uniformed police presence that morning.  Unfortunately, their presence started a new round of (unfounded) rumors.  Since Gordon and other officials were busy with other aspects of the incident, they weren't able to address these rumors quickly which made them that much more difficult to quash.  Despite this, Gordon believes the decision to have police on hand was the right decision.  
 
Gordon also had to determine the best course of action to take with the student in question.  He was told not to come to school and was put on a ten day suspension.  It turns out he was a special needs student, which requires a different set of action be taken.  They had to conduct a 'determination of manifestation' to see if the threat was a result of his disability.  It wasn't and now the student is going through an expulsion hearing.  
 
Gordon recalled his early days teaching phys ed. in Wisconsin where the sounds of gunfire was nothing new.  Teaching gun safety was part of the curriculum and skeet shooting was one of the rotations in gym.  Students routinely brought their own shotguns from home.  Other students made bowie knifes in metal shop.  Archery clubs were common.  
 
That was already changing, but Columbine brought that all to a permanent stop.  Columbine also started a process of evolving procedures school staff were trained on for these situations.  Gordon feels the current guidelines, summarized as "Run, Hide, Fight" give people the authority to take the action they believe is best for them and the students in their care.  It doesn't force everyone into one type of reaction or another.  
 
For students, this incident showed school staff that there was a need for student training as well.  The initial rumor was spreading for several hours before it came to Gordon's attention largely because students didn't know how to respond - whom to contact.  That will be addressed in the coming weeks.  
 
In addition to this training, Gordon has overseen significant safety upgrades to the building itself. They recently installed bullet proof glass throughout the building and improved the security at the entry vestibule.  In addition to security cameras, they recently installed an emergency signal that notifies those outside the building not to come near through flashing lights on the building, changing the message on the school's electric sign , etc.  They're working on having it also automatically notify the police.  
 
It's incredibly disheartening that our teachers have to handle situations such as these.  That so much money must be spent on bullet proof glass for windows instead of shatter proof beakers for the chemistry department, or sound proof glass for the band's rehearsal room.  (Oh, this is fun - or sneeze guard glass for the cafeteria salad bar.  Or clear glass for the 4H Club's green house.)  But as this is the reality we're living in, it is comforting that we have people like Gordon Sisson doing all that can be done to ensure the safety and well being of our kids.  
 

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