Security policy discussed at Othello School Board meeting

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Cheryl Schweizer/Sun Tribune - Othello School Board chair Rob Simmons said it will be up to Othello School District patrons to determine the specifics of the district’s security policy.

OTHELLO — Safety, security and how to improve them in Othello schools was the subject of an extensive discussion at the Othello School Board meeting Oct. 8. Part of the discussion centered around “lethal protection,” in the words of board chair Rob Simmons. That could include allowing school staff to have weapons.

The safety policy does allow for the possibility. “We’ve had this conversation with the police department several times, and the insurance companies. This is on our radar, we’re talking about it. It’s not something we see in the immediate future,” said Gregg Fultz, the district’s risk manager.

Simmons wrote the draft policy, and said he included the possibility of “lethal protection” so district patrons could have a thorough discussion about what they wanted to do. “Going forward, I think a really important part of this is going to be the education part of the community on what the options are. The pros and cons.”

District patrons asked him about it when the policy was being reviewed in the wake of a school shooting in Florida last February, Simmons said. “I knew when I put that in there that was going to be the difficult part. There were some requests to put that verbiage in, but the reason I did it is, for the sake of the community who supports that, they need to hear the pros and cons so that all of us in the end are part of that process of deciding is that an option we want to have in the Othello School District.”

Fultz said school officials and the police department have been studying it, determining what kind of training and standards would be required, and what it might cost. “The big push from our insurance company, they’re basically saying, think twice before implementing anything.”

Board member Ken Johnson said the cost may be a deciding factor, and he welcomed a discussion about expanding the school resource officer program. “I think when we start looking at it for cost-effectiveness, and look at the training, it’s going to be cheaper to put another officer in our school.”

The ultimate decision, Simmons said, will be up to district patrons.

All Othello students have school-supplied computers, and the district monitors use of them with a couple of different programs. The procedure for admitting school visitors has been modified.

Board member Jenn Stevenson said she asked her kids about some of the programs that allow students to report activity, and they said they hadn’t heard of them. District officials need to make an effort to get all relevant information out to teachers, and ultimately to parents. Fultz said district officials and the school board had talked about a community meeting on security, but the idea kind of fizzled out. District officials should schedule one, he said.

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