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Havasu school safety in focus

As Lake Havasu High School students return to school next month, they’ll be greeted by four security employees stationed at campus entrances. The beefed-up security force is part of Lake Havasu Unified School District’s plan to improve campus security in the new year.

School safety was the hot-button topic during Wednesday’s town hall meeting hosted by the district.

With recent school shootings across the nation still fresh in mind, the goal of the meeting was to raise awareness and assure parents and community leaders that by working in concert with local law enforcement as well as fire department personnel, campus safety is priority number one.

Superintendent Diana Asseier said the district has a confidential safety plan and conducts lockdown drills throughout the school year, but district officials plan to augment those precautionary measures in the coming year.

Among the priorities, school district officials hope to identify strengths and weaknesses of campus security, and create a U.S. Homeland Security school safety checklist for each campus. Additionally, the district wants to provide threat assessment training for school administrators, counselors and other staff, Asseier said.

“The idea behind threat assessment is that kids will be kids,” Asseier said. “But, this assessment is to determine if they actually pose a threat.”

Along with considering student behavior as a priority, physical access to schools also will come under the microscope in the coming months.

“At some of our schools we will be looking at fencing, entry and exit points, security cameras, lighting and how easily accessed are our front offices,” Asseier said. “We’ll be looking at once you enter a school can you go anywhere or is there flow restriction.”

Because of the porous nature of access at Lake Havasu High School, it will be the focal point for security reviews. Although not going as far as installing metal detectors, a beefed-up security force is warranted, Asseier said.

“In this day and age metal detectors are easily avoidable, and places that have tried them haven’t had much success,” Asseier said. “Looking at the high school’s entry points, we’ve hired four (full time) individuals all with security backgrounds and additional training who will start this school year.”

The Lake Havasu City Police Department is also on the frontline of school safety.

It’s never too early to get children thinking about being safe at school, said Police Chief Dan Doyle. “This is something that pays dividends down the road.”

Doyle said teaching the elements of the department’s NOVA program and providing positive outlets is crucial.

NOVA, which stands for Nurturing Opportunities Values and Accountability, stresses personal responsibility, proper decision-making, self-esteem, development of a positive mental attitude, the influence of social media, Internet safety, drugs and gang issues.

“I believe in teaching the components of the NOVA program by starting it out at the elementary grades,” Doyle said. “Through this program, we focus on anger management, bullying, and aggression, things that you see the older kids in high school facing in one form or another.”


by David Louis, Today's News-Herald
July 25, 2018

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