FORT MADISON - The Fort Madison School board annually gets a sober dose of reality in terms of school safety when officials return from the National School Safety Conference.
This year was no different as Fort Madison High School Principal Patrick Lamb attended the event with several other school officials and brought back some suggestions for the district.
Lamb is also the district’s safety director and has attended the conference on multiple occasions.
One of the suggestions is to create a Threat Management Team within the district’s Threat Assessment team, which is a group of school and law enforcement officials that meet regularly to assess the district’s safety status.
"I'm going to propose at the first Threat Assessment Team meeting that we create this team," Lamb said.
"It should be a multi-agency team and a dedicated team, a smaller team."
He said the conference also focused on Emergency Event Management which looks at the safety of after-school events, which would fall under the responsibility of FMHS Activities Director Jeff Lamb.
“Obviously, the most preventative measure in reducing school violence is a positive relationship with the families of our community,” Lamb said.
He said 94% of school shooters share indicators in social media so the policy of see something, hear something, say something is a critical component of school safety.
“They are giving indication at some point in time that they are going to do something drastic and those things are just not shared,” Lamb said.
He said that is called negligent retention which is not notifying appropriate authorities for whatever reason. Aside from the obvious continuous safety of students, Lamb said school districts are now being held liable when unfortunate tragedies occur.
The district was a victim of swatting earlier this year when a fake call of an active shooter came in to the Fort Madison PD and the school was put on lockdown. Lamb said his review of the incident and the district’s reactions, showed that the hallways were cleared within 20 seconds according to surveillance cameras and the district handled the situation well.
“I think our incident in March proved to us that we were ready for that event. That was at an inconvenient time and our hallways were cleared in 20 seconds. But we should take a hard look at what we’re doing,” Lamb said.
“The first and last line of defense is always a highly alert school staff and student body,” Lamb said. “And that has a correlation to our security drills.”
One of the other issues pressing in the district is not having enough staff at extracurricular activities.
Lamb said the district has enough coverage for the smaller school events, but basketball games and football games in particular, need to have more staff on hand for the safety of everyone.
He said, at some point, the district is going to have to incentivize that to attract school staff to events.
“We are never fully staffed. We have minimal staff for events. Jeff puts out email after email after email. We just don’t get people to come to events to supervise. We may have staff there to watch, but they don’t want to supervise, they want to be with their families, which is completely understandable,” Lamb said.
“But this is something we will have to problem solve and, depending on the conversations, may have to come back to the larger group, because inconvenience is not an excuse for negligence.
“We’re going to have to figure out a way to be appropriately staffed at school events, especially given after-school events are on the rise.”
He said that’s the most important thing he could bring to the board out of the conference.
“We have a terrific staff who have terrific relationships with our kids and, right now, it’s a fine line. A lot of teachers are leaving the profession because they are overtaxed. We’re asking them to do too much, so we have to be creative in how we handle that.
He also said ensuring a single-point entry to the buildings is critical and new construction has been focused on that security issue. The number of incidents of people coming in unauthorized doors has been reduced with additional signage at those doors.
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