HSE, MSDLT school districts focus on security, emergency protocols

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For Hamilton Southeastern Schools and the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, safety protocols are regularly studied and updated to ensure the safety of students, teachers and staff.

According to officials from both school districts, procedures in place to handle all emergency situations, including intruders, shootings, severe weather, power outages, gas leaks or wild animals on playgrounds.

Mike Johnson is the director of school safety for Hamilton Southeastern Schools. He also is retired from the Fishers Police Dept., where he worked for 29 years as a support division for commander for local schools. He has worked on school safety policies throughout his career.

Johnson said protecting schools in shooting situations is a top priority.

“We are always updating and learning how we need to improve for the needs of the schools and public,” Johnson said. “We are constantly seeking ways to update security and procedures on keeping students safe, per emergency situations from the police and people who participated in the field and in the buildings during these (nationwide) shootings.”

Educating teachers and staff on safety plans is an ongoing process, Johnson said.

“We have an extensive safety plan for both districts and each individual building that is driven by the adults and staff in the building,” he said. “We utilize different levels of safety for our day-to-day operations, the normal operations.”

Daily emergency operating procedures are outlined in the student handbook, which every student receives.

“The (emergency operating procedures) guide teachers through any critical incidents, anything from student falls to a power outage, severe weather, intruders,” Johnson said. “We also have standard operating safety procedures that happen every day.”

Daily safety precautions include:

  • All outside doors are locked throughout the entire building
  • All visitors are buzzed in
  • All visitors must sign in
  • Background checks are required for all visitors that will have contact with any student without a chaperon
  • All new employees and volunteers all must go through background checks
  • School resource officers are stationed in all buildings

All nine of the HSE district’s SROs are provided by the Fishers Police. Dept.

“Each high school has one permanent SRO assigned daily to that school, so the students know them,” Johnson said. “The others are assigned to the junior highs schools and rotate to the schools that feed into their junior high schools.”

Moreover, several staff members, educators, principals and other law enforcement officers are trained as Indiana Certified School Safety Specialists throughout the district and conduct age-appropriate emergency drills throughout the school year.

“Drills are scheduled throughout the calendar year, not only the school calendar year,” Johnson said. “And we must consider the audience when drilling, so for an active shooting drill, those are teacher-led on following directions with a book, ‘I’m not scared, I’m Prepared,’ which would put it in a first-grade mindset in order not to scare the younger audiences.”

The Metrpolitan School District of Lawrence Township as equally thorough and detailed safety measures in place.

“The MSD of Lawrence Township is continually reviewing safety policies and procedures to ensure the high-quality experience for students and staff. The district is one of the first to establish a comprehensive Safe Schools Emergency Management Plan, which provides administration and staff with consistent and documented procedures to follow in the event of any kind of emergency or crisis situation,” Dana Altemeyer, district’s director of communications, stated in an email to Current.

The district’s building safety plans are not available to the public for safety reasons, according to Altemeyer, but they are reviewed annually and submitted to the Indiana Dept. of Education, in accordance with state and deferral requirements. The district also has full-time SROs.

“Security officers are assigned to both middle and high schools,” Altemeyer stated. “Other security offers rotate among the Early Learning Centers and Elementary Schools. The district Director of Safety and Security is available at all times and assists security officers as needed.”

The district’s safety procedures include:

  • Buildings are physically configured to limit building access
  • All building visitors are required to complete a SafeVisitor background check prior to proceeding beyond the main office
  • All safety drills are completed in compliance with Indiana Dept. of Education requirements
  • A minimum of 8 drills are completed each semester

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