New London reviews security concerns
School board discusses safety efforts
By Robert Cloud
Safety and security became a focus of discussion at the August school board meeting.
Kandi Martin, director of pupil services, and New London High School Principal Brian Yerkey initially updated the board on the efforts of the school safety team, noting that the team meets quarterly and its next meeting would be Aug. 16.
“Every year we do this and every year you guys have meetings,” board member John Heideman said. “Around the nation, the same things happen over and over and over again and the only thing that keeps it from happening seems to be a roll of the dice.”
Heideman said the nation has “a cookie cutter approach” to the problem of security.
“We have meetings, pour a cup of coffee,” he said. “We have some donuts. Things don’t really change. How can we change the dynamic? Because there’s not going to be less crazy people.”
Martin responded by noting that New London is one of the few school districts in the area to have a safety auto alert system.
She said the system notifies her and a social worker of threatening messages.
“In addition, the principals are getting those forwarded to them when they come up,” Martin said. “Brian and I were on the phone in the wee hours last night.”
Martin said Yerkey was immediately involved with the problem, communicating with the police and the family of the student.
Martin said the district is not privy to students’ cellphones, but the incident involved a message on Instagram that another student forwarded to the district.
“We don’t sit around and eat donuts,” Yerkey said. “Our safety staff has drastically changed in the last five to six years. The methods we use, the framework we have in place, the drills, the training, the extensive things we do on a daily basis to help school safety has changed drastically.”
Yerkey said the incident involved a student posting a message involving a gun on Instagram on a Sunday while school was not in session. He was in contact with the family and the police.
“I think we have come a long way,” Yerkey said. “We have a fantastic district when it comes to school safety. Does that mean we’re going to prevent a tragedy? No. If somebody wants to do something horrible, they will do something horrible. We’ve done a fantastic job of putting things in place to prevent, mitigate, recognize all these things.”
Yerkey said he feels good about sending his own children to school in New London.
“I think every principal wants their kids and every other kid to go to school safe and come home safe,” he said. “That’s our primary goal.”
Heideman said he did not know if the school district had written procedures regarding its response to school security threats.
Board President Chris Martinson noted that the district had procedures, but wondered how to balance responding to parents’ safety concerns with the possibility that making the procedures public would aid those who may pose a threat to students and staff.