Wednesday September 03, 2014





District schools beef up security

Threats in wake of Newtown massacre prompt lockup at Kamloops schools
Keith Anderson

South Kamloops Secondary vice-principal Scott Galloway uses his keys to set the locks on the inside of the school doors.

The Kamloops-Thompson School District is implementing new security measures after local schools received threats meant to copycat the Newtown, Conn., massacre that left 20 children and six adults dead.

District Supt. Terry Sullivan said after the Dec. 14 tragedy in the U.S., a recorded message was sent to parents explaining that threats were anticipated as the Newtown incident triggered troubled individuals.

And as anticipated, threats did come in over three days leading up to the Christmas break. Schools across the province and the country experienced similar issues, he said.

"There's a lot of imitative and copycat behaviour that has been precipitated by this tragedy and we're not unlike any other district in that we're dealing with it," said Sullivan.

On Dec. 19, 20 and 21, four unnamed schools in Kamloops were threatened in five different instances. Threats were levelled at three secondary schools and one elementary school.

Sullivan didn't specify the nature of the threats or disclose which schools were involved. However, he said four threats were issued through the Internet — one of those via Twitter — and one reached staff through student word-of-mouth.

Four of those incidents were resolved and one will be concluded this week, he said. Each was linked to three students with histories of mental illness. All but one was deemed low risk.

"When we tracked them all down, with the exception of one, they were without foundation," he said. "The other, the situation was a little more risky. There was somebody that we felt could inflict some damage on people."

Some of the students involved will be dealt with through disciplinary measures but others will need a more involved response.

The district is working with the RCMP and mental health workers to address the incidents.

"It will be more youth mental health issues than … discipline and criminal matters," said Sullivan.

As a result of the Newtown tragedy and the local threats, schools throughout Kamloops-Thompson must now keep all doors but the front entrance locked during in-class hours.

Crash bars allow staff and students to open doors from the inside.

Parents received pre-recorded messages this week explaining the change.

Sullivan acknowledged the policy would "clearly" inconvenience people and it would take a few weeks to get used to. He added the measure is standard practice in every other district he's worked in.

The district continues to review its security practices and intends to implement more measures, he said.

Students at South Kamloops secondary school were not aware of the new security policy on Tuesday afternoon. But they were generally in favour of it.

"I think we should to anything to stop that from happening to our school," said 17-year-old Roy Fuller. "We should stick together as a community."

Eighteen-year-old John Wiffen said he felt the safety precaution is necessary.

"Especially for parents. They want safety for their kids," he said.

Seventeen-year-old Eric Simmons said he saw pros and cons. He agreed with precautionary measures, but said it could be an inconvenience, especially in inclement weather and heavy snow.

Simmons also had the million-dollar question: "Why would somebody want to do that in the first place — shoot up a school?"


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