In a breakout session Monday at the Bayfield School District Safety Night, local police explained how they handle lockdowns, lockouts and other safety issues in partnership with the staff at Bayfield schools.
School safety has vastly improved in Bayfield in the past four or five years, explained Bayfield Marshal Joe McIntyre. All staff now receive training in safety and threat assessments, and the district has a crisis response team that responds to a variety of student and safety issues.
There used to be multiple entrances into schools, they weren't monitored, and teachers hadn't been trained to keep their classroom doors closed and locked, explained Sgt. Dan Cyr, the school resource officer for the Bayfield Marshal's Office. Now all Bayfield schools buzz in visitors through a monitored and locked door, and the department has been contacted when staff members haven't wanted to let someone into a school.
Of the unfortunate number of school shootings in the U.S., the shooter almost never comes through a closed and locked door, Cyr said. So just that simple step is a big deterrent.
In the shooting at Virginia Tech, for example, all of the victims were killed or injured in unlocked classrooms. One professor blocked a door closed by bracing his legs against the door, and the shooter moved on to another room.
Although the chance of having a school shooting happen anywhere is small, Cyr explained part of his job as a school resource officer is to discuss with students how to be aware of potential threats and how to deal with them.
"We have to train and prepare, just in case."
Every semester, the district and marshal's office practice lockdowns or lockouts at all of the schools in the district.
A lockdown is when all doors are locked, windows covered, no one can enter or leave the school building, and students are instructed to stay away from windows and doors. It is ordered when there is an immediate threat in or near the school.
A lockout is when there is threatening activity near a school, but no known danger to students. Again, no one is allowed into the school during a lockout. An example of a lockout was when a bank in Bayfield was robbed at gunpoint several years ago, and the armed suspects fled on a four-wheeler, passing the high school, Cyr explained.
Other protocols the district and police use include evacuate and shelter to get students out of harm's way.
Police also have changed their tactics in dealing with school shootings, Cyr said. If someone enters a school wanting to harm students and staff, he explained the safest thing is for the children and teachers to get into a locked classroom. That way, an officer in the school can focus on shooting the perpetrator and not worry about accidentally hitting kids running through the halls.
If an active shooter is in a building, it can be safer for students to get out through another door or window from a classroom, Cyr said. It's important that they stay together as a group.
"We tell the kids, 'You can protect yourself. That's your right.' We don't scare the kids with these conversations," he said.
Sometimes, it's difficult for staff to undergo the training. They say they became educators to teach kids, but Cyr explains to them that student safety has to be of major importance, as well.
"I give major kudos to the staff and students," McIntyre said.
The marshal also recommended parents should talk with their kids about school safety and what they would do if someone threatened to hurt himself, or hurt others.
"It's a difficult conversation to have," McIntyre said. "We have to change that mindset."
The evening's keynote speaker, Safe2Tell founder and executive director Susan Payne, cited the Sandy Hook school shootings. A first grade boy recognized a chance to escape as the shooter stopped to reload. The boy grabbed a friend's hand, and they got out.