Private schools take the lead on school security

Private schools take the lead on school security

Posted:
During school hours at Knoxville Catholic High School, everyone must buzz the front desk before entering. During school hours at Knoxville Catholic High School, everyone must buzz the front desk before entering.
"There's so much activity and so you're trying to give access to the children to the facilities, but yet you're trying to limit the access to people that don't need to be here and that does present a challenge," Mike Fleenor said. "There's so much activity and so you're trying to give access to the children to the facilities, but yet you're trying to limit the access to people that don't need to be here and that does present a challenge," Mike Fleenor said.
Maryville College student IDs only open their doors. Administrators encourage students not to let strangers into the building. Maryville College student IDs only open their doors. Administrators encourage students not to let strangers into the building.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - There's been a heightened focus on school security since the December massacre in Newtown, Conn.

In Knox County, problems surfaced with security systems at Hardin Valley Academy and Powell Middle School.

The superintendent now wants to add video cameras, buzzer systems and keyless entry cards at every public school and hire 58 more school resource officers.

6 News got a tour of a local private high school and college from a school security expert to see what technology is being used there to keep students and staff safe.

If you're a visitor to Knoxville Catholic High School or even a student late to class, you won't find any unlocked doors to sneak in.

"We used to keep a door unlocked and after Newtown, we buzz everybody in all the time now," said Academic Dean Jane Walker.

If you're not a staff member with key card access to that door at that time of day, you'll have to push the call button, be seen on camera by the front office, and get buzzed in. 

"It's made for a lot of extra work up at the front desk. It's made for visitors that get frustrated because they don't see the plaque that says you have to buzz in," Walker said.

But she said the hassle, and the cost, are worth it. 

"We are willing to make the sacrifices that it takes in the budget. Sure, we could hire an extra teacher, we could have another great class, we could have something else in this school, but we know it's always a balance," Walker said.

Mike Fleenor, president of Fleenor Security Systems, installed the system when the school was built 13 years ago and has been in charge of upgrades, like more cameras, every year. 

"There's so much activity and so you're trying to give access to the children to the facilities, but yet you're trying to limit the access to people that don't need to be here and that does present a challenge," he said.

Security concerns are a little bit different at Maryville College, with more students, a bigger campus and more buildings. Each student's ID card only lets them in to their dorm and then they have keys to their individual rooms.

Freshman Rachel Long said students are also told what's expected of them to keep the campus safe. 

"They always say, 'It's good to be nice,' but when it comes to your safety, we aren't supposed to be polite and let anyone in the building we don't know," Long said.

Then, there's IRIS, the Immediate Response Information System they invested in after the Virginia Tech shooting.

School security or administrators choose the warning and the recipients, then the message is called, emailed and texted to everyone in danger. 

Dean of Students Vandy Kemp said they rely on a combination of technology and personal responsibility.

"Bad people can do bad things even on a small safe campus, so we have to be constantly vigilant," Kemp said.

"It's a different age, different society," Fleenor said.

Fleenor said the best option for schools is to have a security expert install an integrated system during construction and then keep up with new technology.

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