This article originally appeared on eMissourian.com. To view the original article, click here.
This school year, Washington Police Department officers will be able to access live camera footage from within Washington School District buildings from department laptops.
Officers also have maps of the district’s school buildings and key cards.
“And the goal there is obviously so that the first officer who is on scene has the things that they need to address anything in that building,” School Resource Officer (SRO) Sgt. Michael Grissom said. “They can get into a janitor’s closet or a classroom or anything like that without having to wait for an SRO or a supervisor or someone who has a key.”
The news came as Assistant Superintendent Dr. John McColloch and Grissom updated the Washington School Board on security throughout the district at the board’s Aug. 24 meeting, which took place two days after the school commenced for the fall 2022 semester.
McColloch said the school district’s IT personnel met with their counterparts at the Washington Police Department (WPD) over the summer to make the district’s camera systems available to officers. The access does not violate the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, because law enforcement is allowed to access videos not classified as educational records.
McColloch said every school in the district has secure entrances that require an identification scan and quick background search via the Raptor Technologies Visitor Management System. Dark window film has been added at some buildings, but McColloch said more windows could be tinted and some dark areas around the buildings at night need lights.
McColloch said the district splits the cost of its three SROs with WPD. SROs are stationed at Washington High School and Washington Middle School and a third officer travels between elementary schools.
Also this year, St. Charles County added a full-time officer for Augusta Elementary, and Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Kephart said the Franklin and Warren County sheriffs departments regularly check in at schools around the district.
Washington School District’s monthly drill schedule has been updated, McColloch said, making sure students and staff are informed on what to do in the event of a fire, natural emergency or otherwise. The district has annual safely audits in the winter and quarterly meetings for building and district safety. An annual community safety meeting with law enforcement representatives and “parochial partners,” which is open to the public will be held Sept. 15.
We’re going to really step back up in our quarterly safety meetings,” McColloch said. “So, how those will look is we’ll have the building emergency response team. We want them to meet, discuss things in their buildings, concerns in their buildings and then we’ll come together as a district team each quarter and break those down and talk through those.”
McColloch said that prevention strategy is headed by the district’s Threat Assessment Team, which consists of counselors, SROs and administrators who have an “assessment tool” to determine recommended support steps for individual students or situations.
Lindsey Jasper, the district’s social worker, said district staff also work with families to address potential threats to schools or students. She said the team meets once a month.
“We’ve had a strong process for the last eight, nine years, and it’s evolved as we’ve learned more about changes we can make to our process to make it better,” she said.