School security is best left to officers, not teachers, says TPS police chief
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Friday, February 15, 2013
2/15/13 at 5:44 AM
Read the report: Read the FBI bulletin by
Tulsa Public Schools Police Chief Gary Rudick.
Original Print Headline: School security is best left to the pros, TPS police chief says
An armed teacher might be looking down the gun sights at a student or former student, Tulsa Public Schools Police Chief Gary Rudick said.
Rarely is a school shooter or dangerous intruder unknown to the staff, he said.
If teachers are allowed to pull a gun, they will know that student's family, struggles to make friends, hardships at home, mental-health challenges and even the triumphs and happy times.
"The teacher will hesitate to shoot. I will not," Rudick said. "What will you do when there is a dead child on the ground? Let it be the police officer to go home that night and drop his head in his hands and weep. Let it be the police officer to have nightmares or have the public scrutiny afterward.
"Let the teachers teach."
The grim reality of a shoot-to-kill mindset ingrained in law enforcement training is not being talked about, Rudick said.
It's one that was discussed Thursday during a Partners in Education forum on school safety hosted by the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Tulsa Public Schools.
Officer presence: Rudick is a member of a state task force examining ideas to bolster safety and security in schools.
Arming teachers is one of the options being considered for legislation.
Rudick argues against it, saying the more effective, yet expensive, tool is placing armed police or security officers with school security training in each building.
He said arming teachers is most attractive in rural areas where law enforcement response times are longer.
"That is a solution, but it's not the best solution," Rudick said. "If it's about kids, it should be the best solution. We're trying to take the cheap way out."
Providing trained officers in each Tulsa building would more than double the district's police budget, from about $3 million to $7 million.
Instead, officers are being placed strategically in buildings throughout the district and a dispatch partnership is being created with the Tulsa Police Department.
A 2010 bond issue included money for all schools to have a magnetic-key entry and surveillance cameras by 2015.
The bond committee has decided to change the timeline of projects so all schools will have these security features by the end of this year, Rudick said.
He warns against making too many institutional-like additions, such as metal detectors.
"If you build schools like prisons, students will act like prisoners, and parents will start to act like prisoners," he said.
New era of school security: School security is more than handling intruders.
There are fights breaking out in hallways, special needs children becoming violent and requiring restraint, angry parents lashing out, theft among students or drugs being brought to school.
These are far more common.
Traditionally, these issues have been handled by teachers and staff members, and that process needs to evolve, Rudick said.
He wrote in a bulletin for the FBI in November 2011 about how law enforcement officers need specialized training regarding these scenarios.
"Safety is everyone's business, but security should be left to professionals," Rudick said.
This new era of school security is challenging the once-championed community school concept.
Kendall-Whittier Elementary School Principal Ronda Kesler said it is a struggle to find balance between encouraging and managing visitors, including parents.
"Any school wants to be parent-friendly, but safety has to come first," she said.
At Kendall-Whittier, parents are allowed in the school until the bell rings at 7:45 a.m., and staff members watch for signs of distress or contraband.
"Then the doors lock, and everyone has to enter by the buzz-in system," Kesler said. "We're open, but we're aware."
Most buildings were not built with the modern concept of school security.
Some, like Kendall-Whittier, have an open-classroom design, meaning there are no doors to lock during a lock-down situation.
In the Tulsa district, 26 schools use the Ident-a-Kid computer system for logging visitors and sending alerts.
The company said more than 30 systems will be added next year, and the cost of about $500 a year comes from the school.
"Schools are often more safe than the kids' homes, their neighborhoods and their communities," Rudick said. "When kids are in trouble, they run to their school because that's what they know and trust."
TPS Police Chief Gary Rudick: He says teachers don't have cops' shoot-to-kill mentality