Paris schools add safety locks to protect against school shooters

Digital Original

PARIS, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — More than 30 school shootings have taken place across the country this year alone. In the wake of these tragedies, Dist. 95 in Paris, Illinois is doing its part to keep students safe.

“We’re always looking to update our safety plan, and to update our safety mechanisms just to make sure our students are safe.” Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Larson said.

The latest update included new locking mechanisms for classroom doors.

“So the Illinois General Assembly recently approved a new locking mechanism for classrooms,” Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Larson explained. “And there is actually only one that has been approved by Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois General Assembly.”

Larson said the approved lock allows for proper locking in the event of an active shooter, but is also safe in the event of a fire.

“So, in fires, we want to make sure that students are able to get outside the classroom and not be locked inside the classroom,” he said. “But, we also, for active shooters, want to be able to lock individuals out.”

The classroom doors were already equipped with traditional lock and key systems. The new locking mechanism is spring-loaded allowing anyone to pull and lock in an emergency.

“The benefit of that is so that if a student doesn’t have a key, which they’re not going to, or if a teacher can’t find their key or if the door is not already locked, they can just pull it and the door will automatically lock,” Larson explained.

Students are learning what to do during the event of an active shooter and other emergency through safety drills.

“We actually will have safety days with our kids and go through all of the various types of drills, and have kids practice what they would do if they were in a hallway, if they were in a classroom, the gym, the playground, so students know how to respond,” Larson said.

Active shooters aren’t the only threat students could encounter. Unwanted visitors to the school are now stopped at the door through a new check-in system.

Toward the end of the last school year, Memorial Elementary, Carolyn Wenz Elementary and Mayor Middle School were each equipped with a kiosk to check in guests as they arrive.

“[Visitors] will bring out their driver’s license, have it scanned, and it will let us know if they are a sexual offender, if they are on a list for any type of protective orders, and it can also trigger if we put any type of alerts in for parents that have been disruptive or have had issues in the past,” Larson explained. “And, so, it’s a great way for us to manage all our visitors, as well as keep track of the individuals background checks as they come into our schools.”

Memorial School secretary Debbie Graves noted that if parents or other visitors do not bring their ID, they can still be checked in at the school with a few additional steps.

Larson called school safety a community effort.

“I think that the most important thing is that we have good relationships with our community members,” Larson said. “If you really want to keep a school safe, you have to have good relationships.

Dist. 95 has regular safety meetings with first responders to go through each of the schools and review safety plans, but it doesn’t stop there.

“It’s the mom or dad who are dropping of their kid each and every day that see something that looks irregular from what they’re normally seeing, or it’s the next door neighbor to the school who sees something that looks irregular,” he said. “And we just need people, if they see something to say something. So that way, they can report those types of incidences so that the school administrators are aware so we can keep our students safe.”

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