WISCONSIN (WITI) – Days after the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, FOX6 News began conducting perhaps the most extensive security survey of schools in southeastern Wisconsin. What FOX6 learned may shock parents of school-aged children.
A varsity basketball game is one of the few places Filisha James and Rick Nelson can keep an eye on their children while they’re actually on school property. During the school day itself, James and Nelson, like all parents, know they must rely on teachers and administrators to educate and protect their children.
In this case, both trust their sons’ school.
“Never been worried about it or concerned about it at all,” the two told FOX6 News.
FOX6 News spent months researching to determine whether schools in southeastern Wisconsin deserve that trust. FOX6 News requested a look at safety plans and records of safety drills.
Through this research, FOX6 News learned all schools, 243 in total, have some sort of safety plan in place. However, FOX6 News found 51.4% of these schools may be unprepared to stop a school shooting.
The reason: Those institutions consistently run less than two safety drills per year.
Twice annual drills will be required by law in Wisconsin by May of 2013.
Published in 2010, the law gives all schools up to three years to put a system in place where: “At least twice annually, any public school shall drill all pupils in the proper method of evacuation or other appropriate action in case of a school safety incident.”
Even though the law isn’t yet mandatory, more than a year ago, a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction training video sends this clear message:
“You know this bill has been in effect for a year and half at this point and so it would be the expectation of the state that most of you are already in compliance. Unfortunately some don`t know or some don`t care about the new law,” Peter Pochowski said.
Pochowski is the executive director of the not-for-profit Wisconsin School Safety Coordinators Association. Pochowski says schools that don’t do enough drills could be making a deadly mistake.
“Kids are not going to know what to do unless they have some idea. The only way they`ll have some idea is to have practiced it,” Pochowski said.
Though Pochowski says what he currently finds frustrating is some schools don’t have a policy where they lock all doors during the school day — forcing students and parents to go through one secure entry point.
“I can`t tell you how many times I`ve gone to a school in the state of Wisconsin without anyone stopping me at all,” Pochowski said.
The sad reality is, Sandy Hook Elementary School had locked doors, a plan they practiced — and 20 children and six educators murdered.
“Why bother is because the lives of our kids are in jeopardy. In the time that man took to break into that school might have been time for somebody to start thinking that this is going to be a shooting incident — saw or heard the bullets and that might have saved who knows how many lives. That’s why these drills are important,” Pochowski said.
Especially because parents can’t be there during the day to know exactly what is done to protect children off the court and in the classroom.
The school safety expert FOX6 News spoke with says it’s unlikely that even when schools are legally required to do two safety drills a year. The Department of Public Instruction will have the manpower to make sure everyone is following the law.