Security improvements at Rockford schools

ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — Rockford Public School district leaders told 24 Hour News 8 that building security improvements, combined with training sessions for teachers, staff and administrators, have made the district significantly safer.

In 2014, investigators with Target 8 exposed security issues at several different schools across the district.  One producer walked around the district’s middle school for about 20 minutes.  Since then, Rockford voters passed a bond for technology and security upgrades — including adding security vestibules to entrances in every school.

District Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler told 24 Hour News 8, the same security test would have a much different outcome today.

“I don’t know how you would Error: Break shortcode syntax invalid,” Shibler said Thursday.

The confidence comes from security upgrades, like those vestibules, shatter resistant film on windows and training sessions.

The vestibules mean visitors will have to be individually buzzed in, and go through the front office. There will be cameras in the vestibule, viewable in the office, and each time the buzzer is pressed, a picture will be taken.

24 Hour News 8 asked how much extra security one more door can really provide.

“It provides a significant amount of security because it allows you to make an assessment before you let somebody in. I describe it a dirty area to a clean area. We don’t know the people when they come in, but we make some judgments and some assessments before we let them into the clean area that has the students in it,” said Jason Russell.  He is a former secret service agent, and the president and CEO of Secure Education Consultants.

Russell called those in the front office the “gate keepers.” He gave staff tips on things to watch out for, before buzzing someone in. He told the dozens gathered to look at body language, and notice if someone’s hands continually hover near the waist. He said this is an indication of a possible gun. He also told staff to watch out for someone who’s breathing rapidly, or wearing bulky clothing that doesn’t match the season. Most importantly he told staff not to be afraid to question who’s trying to get in — and why.

“We’re going to be polite but at the same time our number one priority is the safety of students and staff,” said Shibler. “And so I’m just going to ask for the general public, particularly parents and others, to have patience.”

The vestibules are all expected to be finished by September 8, the first day of school.

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