Securing Schools in Tulsa, Okla.-Area

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

Bullying also is addressed in student handbooks at area schools.

O'Malley said a TPS code of conduct defines proper school behavior -- bullying is not tolerated.

"Tulsa Public Schools last year took a very stern look at bullying and harassment," O'Malley said. "It is emphasized in the code of conduct, and it's one of the things that we talk about: Don't do it."

East Central teachers also discuss proper behavior with students at the beginning of the school year, calling attention to unacceptable actions, he said.

Established drills

All schools conduct random locker checks, and drug dogs are used to sniff lockers to see if students are hiding drugs.

Backpacks and cars in the parking lot may be searched if teachers suspect something illegal, Trout said.

Procedures are in place should a crisis occur.

Today, lockdown drills -- emergency situations that require schools to lock classroom doors and entrances into the building -- are as common as tornado and fire drills.

Lockdowns can prevent an outside intruder from entering a classroom and the building.

A school might go into lockdown in the event of an armed robbery at a nearby store or a shooting in a nearby neighborhood.

Last year, East Central went into lockdown when a worker at a local company was killed in her office by her ex-husband, O'Malley said.

McKim said teachers at the school take lockdown drills seriously, because they know the drills are designed to ensure safety during an emergency.

"Teachers are trained the first of the year on what to do in their classrooms during a lockdown, and what to do with their kids," McKim said. "Once teachers hear a code from the principal, they are to lock their doors in their classroom and secure their students to stay until they are escorted out by a law enforcement officer into a safe zone."

Security at Owasso H.S.

Although Owasso has a larger enrollment than East Central, the school does not have campus security guards. The district recently applied for a grant that would have paid for campus police at the high school, but it was denied funds because the school did not have enough incidents of reported crime, Trout said.

Last year, no weapons were found at the school, he said, and no member of the school's student council thinks security guards are needed at the school.

"I feel it would be an invasion of privacy, because we have a pretty good school," said Cameron Hutton, a senior member of the student council. "We've done this well so far and don't feel we need anything like that."

The school's size and lack of campus police, however, have caused the school to establish a good working relationship with the Owasso Police Department. In the event of a crisis, police would be at the school within five minutes, Trout said.

Security at Verdigris H.S>

Of the five area high schools, Verdigris is the only one that does not have surveillance cameras in its buildings that take video images of the school and parking lot.

Randy Risenhoover, principal at Verdigris, said because of the school's small enrollment, district officials do not believe cameras are needed.

"We just don't have the problems that we hear about elsewhere," he said.

At Verdigris, teachers instruct students about what to do in case of an emergency. Teachers are writing procedures for handling emergency situations. The procedures will be posted on classroom bulletin boards for students to see, Risenhoover said.

Security Collinsville H.S.

Collinsville High School is about five miles north of Owasso. School officials reported no weapons on campus last year, but vandalism and destruction of school property prompted the district to place surveillance cameras in the high school for the first time last March, said Principal Cory Slagle.

The cameras have stopped vandalism, and students have fewer conflicts or fights at school because they know they will be caught on camera, he said.

Earlier this month, five Collinsville students and a teacher attended a statewide safe-school summit sponsored by the state Department of Education. Senior Rebyl Richardson, who attended the summit, said it emphasized the importance of making good decisions and realizing the consequences of one's actions.