Securing Schools in Tulsa, Okla.-Area

A look at how five Tulsa-area high schools take steps to keep their students safe


Security guards and surveillance cameras enhance safety in area high schools, but the eyes and ears of teachers and staff members remain the best prevention against school violence.

More than six years have passed since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., before killing themselves, but the massacre's impact is still felt at high schools, where safety is perhaps as important as test scores.

Lockdowns, locker checks and closed campuses are some measures schools have implemented since Columbine.

Five area principals agree that since the shootings at Columbine, teachers and students are more aware of signs of trouble.

"The biggest change has been the awareness of school atmosphere and how important it is to school safety," said Stan Trout, principal of Owasso High School. "To me, the biggest impact has been in the emphasis in thinking about the general climate that you have in your school.

"An administrator's worst nightmare is to have something occur on campus that jeopardizes the safety and lives of students on campus."

Campus police

East Central High School in Tulsa and Catoosa High School have campus security in their buildings. Owasso, Collinsville and Verdigris High School do not.

Security guards at East Central and Catoosa patrol the halls and watch the main entrance of the building so intruders cannot enter the building without identifying themselves or their purpose.

Catoosa Campus Police: Since the Catoosa Campus Police Department began providing security at the high school seven years ago, no gun has been found on campus, and no teacher has been attacked by students, according to officials.

Connie Cypert, principal at Catoosa, said the school is a safer place because of campus police.

"I think our kids probably feel more secure than other kids at other schools," Cypert said. "If our campus police was not here, that would disturb our student body."

The campus officers keep records of all crime, including fights, theft, bullying, possession of weapons other than guns, and drug- and alcohol-related incidents, said Kevin McKim, chief of the campus police.

If officers hear of a threat, they are quick to intervene.

"If a kid is threatened by another kid, they come down here to talk to the principal or assistant principal," McKim said. "At that time, they (officials) determine if we need to get involved, because if we get involved, it is a criminal act."

East Central security guards: Although school officials said no guns were seized at East Central last year, records provided by the Education Service Center of Tulsa Public Schools show that five weapons other than guns were confiscated.

Principal Tom O'Malley would not comment on what those weapons were, but examples could include knives, brass knuckles or even knitting needles.

Charles Love, site supervisor of security at East Central, said intervention and interaction with students are the best ways security guards can prevent crime.

"If you see a situation erupting, you want to confront it before it gets too out of control," he said.

"A lot of these kids -- they take problems from home and bring them to school, so if we can interact with them before they meet a certain enemy that they have problems with, it could prevent them from being suspended, kicked out of school and somebody getting hurt."

Bullying

The tragedy at Columbine has caused high schools to take a stronger stance against bullying, and Owasso offers conflict resolution classes as part of its anti-bullying program, Trout said.

"Our teachers are trained to recognize the signs of bullying and victimization of students," he said.

A conflict-resolution class is available to any student who requests it. The district also requires any student who is involved in an altercation to participate in the class, he said.

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