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Safety: a job for the entire community

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Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2018 3:00 pm

The Greater Elgin Chamber of Commerce meetings are conducted like you’d imagine. Bills are paid. Committee reports are given before old and new business is discussed. 

Afterword, everyone adjourns. Most meetings usual routine. 

Dr. Jodi Duron’s report for the chamber’s Education Committee made mention of a letter she sent to Elgin families following the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida.

She provided me a copy of the letter. It was informative and detailed. 

But the two things that gave me pause was realizing shootings are real and unpredictable; protection against something you pray will never happen sounds expensive. 

Here’s the superintendent’s description of some of the safety upgrades:

“… over the last several years, our District has made great strides in improving safety and security at all of our campuses. This includes the addition of secured vestibules/lobbies to limit access to the main portion of the school building. We have also installed security cameras, both inside and outside of our school buildings as well as access-control systems on exterior doors leading in to our schools. Additionally, every Elgin ISD campus is equipped with the Raptor Identification System, which provides our staff the ability to scan a driver’s license or other form of ID through various sex-offender databases. These are intentional and deliberate ways that we are monitoring and managing who is accessing and entering our buildings.”

A quick Google search of the Raptor system shows that Chattanooga, Tennessee school district spent $113,000 for the identification system. 

Certainly, Elgin is smaller but no matter the scales, safety isn’t cheap. And that’s just one part of a multi-faceted approach that includes the building upgrade, working with local fire and police, drill throughout the year and constant reassessment.

Back to the fear part. 

Elgin, during the 70s was much like my school. Mine had two drills – fire and tornado. One sent you outside. The other sent you to the hallways. Anything else the school district imagined (we had a fertilizer plant fire, once), could be covered by one of the two drills. 

Now, both towns have drills for what, not long ago, was unimaginable. It seems almost impossible to prepare for everything, everywhere. Dr. Duron addresses this. And while it pertains to the school district, the general rule could apply everywhere:

“Finally, in spite of the systems we have in place, the most powerful tool we have to improve the safety and security of our schools is to maintain a sense of community – that One Town, One Team, One Family mentality – within our schools and the neighborhoods they serve. Our need to be vigilant, watchful, and report unsafe situations is our best defense against any potential threat against our schools. It is time for us to increase the level of conversation with our children and with other members of our community. Safety is a serious matter; and school safety is a job for the entire community.”

Vigilant, watchful…

The words echo, “See something. Say something.”

The challenge to saying something is it’s more difficult than it sounds. Many of us, up until 9/11 were told to do the opposite – to mind our own business. Gossip and rudeness topped everything until that first unimaginable event. Since then, we’ve fought our instincts and said something.

We’re very fortunate to be in Elgin when these tragedies occur, elsewhere. They hurt. Definitely. We’re here, though. It hasn’t happened here yet. We could even fall into thinking it was a remote possibility. We shouldn’t. Dr. Duron’s letter is a good reminder of that.

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