How school security has changed since Sandy Hook

FILE - This Dec. 14, 2012 aerial file photo shows officials standing outside of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Five years after the horrific mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, schools across West Michigan have significantly upgraded security.

Rockford Public Schools will ultimately invest $11 million in districtwide security enhancements.

“There’s no question we’re far beyond where we were five years ago,” Dr. Mike Shibler, superintendent of Rockford Public Schools, said.

Among the upgrades at Rockford are locked entryways with shatterproof glass. When visitors enter, they are contained in a secure vestibule until a staff member buzzes them in.

“They’ll get ahold of staff by hitting an (intercom) button here,” Scott Beckman, a longtime public safety officer who now heads security at Rockford Public Schools, showed 24 Hour News 8. “(The intercom) has a camera on it.”

Once visitors are buzzed in, they’re forced to walk through the front office before they can reach common hallways.

In addition, volunteers are checked in through fingerprint identification after undergoing background checks.

But the physical security changes are just the beginning. Rockford also puts major emphasis on mental health support and programs for students, as well as increased emergency response training for staff and teachers.

“Physical security is just one piece of the pie,” Beckman said.

Beckman’s message to students and parents on the anniversary of Sandy Hook is to maintain communication with school administrators and law enforcement. He pointed out that in some deadly attacks nationwide, there were red flags before the incident.

“It’s a matter of getting the information to where it needs to be so any concerns can be addressed immediately,” Beckman said.

While you should, of course, call 911 immediately in the case of an imminent threat, Rockford Schools has also instituted OK2SAY, a statewide tip reporting system students can use to report concerns.

The district also touts its Developing Healthy Kids campaign, a series of presentations featuring experts on problems plaguing young people today, including mental health and substance abuse prevention.