Dr. Susan Enfield, Superintendant for Highline Public Schools spoke before the White Center Chamber of Commerce. The district is preparing to roll out a set of recommendations for security measures for the schools next month.
Highline Schools will present security change recommendations next month
By Eric Mathison
Highline schools superintendent Susan Enfield reported March 13 that the district will present its recommendations on school security changes next month to the community for public comment.
She said the district would hold public meetings on the plan.
Enfield has met with former Des Moines police chief Roger Baker, who is reviewing a whole series of issues around school security. The superintendent said the breadth of Baker’s study impresses her. Enfield has also met with the police chiefs within the Highline district.
A district steering committee studied Highline’s security department and presented a report at a Dec. 12 board study session. That was two days before a gunman killed 20 students at a Connecticut elementary school. The timing fueled public alarm over possible changes.
At the March 13 board meeting, Enfield said the district wants to develop a security model that other districts will adopt.
However, Highline security officers contend the security plan currently in place, which allows them to carry firearms and tasers, is the model school districts will use, particularly in the aftermath of the Connecticut shootings. They fear district officials plan to disarm them.
Highline security officer Dennis Decoteau recounted to board members a recent incident at Des Moines schools.
He said he was called from Mt Rainier High to assist a fellow security officer who was dealing with a Pacific Middle student who had threatened a teacher with a double-edged knife and then ran from the school.
Fearing the student may re-enter Pacific, police were called. Pacific, Mt. Rainier and adjoining Midway Elementary were lockdowned, Decoteau reported.
During the incident, Pacific staff received a call from a parent saying another student may have a gun with him at school.
The knife-wielding student was taken into custody and was found to be carrying two knives, according to Decoteau. The other student was searched but did not have a gun.
“Because Highline Public Schools has equipped us with a taser and handgun, security officer Neuman and I did not hesitate to engage these students during this hour-long lockdown,” Decoteau told board members. “I know every officer here could share a similar experience with you.”
He also provided Highline school crime statistics since the Jan. 9 board member. During that period, there were 34 full school days and nine early dismissal days, he noted.
Among the incidents, Decoteau said were 52 drugs, 17 weapons, 13 assaults, seven suspicious persons, four school lockdowns, three arsons, two lurings and one missing child.