School focuses on safety amid recent events

Kate Fletcher, Editor

To ensure a safer, more secure campus in light of mass shootings around the country and the “swatting” incident Sept. 15, administration added multiple safety features including a greater police presence. 

A quick look at the news shows that schools are not exempt from danger. Principal David Morton said the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas was a wake up call leading him to question whether the administration was doing everything it could to ensure a safe learning environment. With that, the administration decided to put many new precautions in place. These policies and precautions allowed the school to have good response time Sept. 15, when a 911 dispatcher received a phone call from outside the school claiming an active shooter was inside the school. 

“The unfortunate event of what we call ‘Swatting’ can happen anywhere and at any time,” Lieutenant Randy Chapa said. “Swatting is when someone calls from an unidentified location and creates a panic or response. I wish we had the ability to stop these things from ever happening.”

This day gave administration a chance to see where the holes were in their precaution plans, and allowed them to make improvements and adjustments to the policies already in place.  

“Many people will have different opinions on how the response was that day, but overall, it was a good response by the police, the school staff, parents, and students,” Chapa said.  

Within two minutes of the phone call to 911, Oklahoma City Police arrived on campus. 

“At the end of the day, 750 students, staff, and such were all unharmed physically,” Chapa said. “The building was cleared by active on-duty officers within 30 minutes of the initial call. A multitude of emergency resources (fire, ems, and medical) were on scene and preparing for the worst. Our officers who work for the school and who were on duty were ready to act on behalf of the students and staff at McGuinness. Many meetings have taken place with myself and the McGuinness administration to discuss how to turn an A into an A+.”

Some of the newest adjustments made are in regards to communication. 

“We knew our weakness that day was that we were not set up yet to connect our faculty and our parents together,” Morton said. “So we have just this week purchased a system that is going to merge our faculty and our parents together so that I can send out one message and everybody’s going to get it. So that was one big take away from it.”

The system is called SwiftK12 and was sent out to the faculty, parents, and students Oct. 24. This system allows Morton to send out one message that is received by all. 

“Then, too, we kind of went over our emergency action plan and we’ve kind of refined it again, to give more specific duties around the campus as far as who’s supposed to be doing what,” Morton said. “So that was kind of the major takeaways.” 

As the police officers were exiting the building that day, they told Morton they were pleased with what they saw. 

“I think the big takeaway from Sept. 15 is as police officers were exiting the school they talked to me and said, ‘hey, you guys have a very safe campus’,” Morton said. “So they were pretty pleased with what they saw when they came in and what we did to kind of lock everybody down and protect the school, and they really appreciated how easy it was for them to connect with us and work with us and how we were readily available to do whatever they needed.”

Actions were taken this summer to make the majority of the changes. 

“We put big screens up in Mr. McFadden’s office and Dr. Worthington’s office and then hook them into their phones so they can pull up videos to the campus that are in real time at any moment.”

An intricate camera system was put in place over the summer as well, and teachers and staff have also attended multiple inservice days regarding school safety and first aid. A recent one the staff attended was called Stop the Bleed. In this training, the staff learned basic first aid skills because many victims of gunshot wounds die from blood loss. 

“We went through the hide, fight, flight scenario and gave the teachers some just basic instructions in a fight situation: how to disarm somebody, how to create a distraction, those types of things,” Morton said. 

These inservice days taught the staff skills, and also led to the addition of first aid kits being added to classrooms. 

“We’re going to have all of our teachers, all of our staff people are going to have these kind of really highly sophisticated first aid kits that they will keep with them that have all the things to provide immediately first aid care, particularly in gunshot situations,” Morton said. “So that’s one thing that’s getting ready to happen. A lot of what we learned was reinforcing what Officer Chapa had taught us this summer, too, so that’s always good to hear another voice saying ’yeah, this is what you’re supposed to be doing’.” 

Two resource officers from the Oklahoma City Police Department are also on campus each day. Resource officers are police officers who are specifically trained to be in schools and around students. This requires the right personality: someone who works well with students and educators. It is different from the typical law enforcement environment because, while resource officers are there to hold people accountable should they break the law, they are also there to educate and mentor students. Becoming a resource officer requires additional training and the ability to work with a variety of people from many diverse backgrounds. 

“Some love officers being in the school and others do not think we belong there,” Chapa said. “I worked with Mr. Morton and have done my very best to find officers who are a good fit for our environment. Hand selected them rather than taking whoever shows up.”

The group of officers that work here were selected by Chapa. 

“Hand selection of officers is very important,” Chapa said. “Not everyone is suited for this environment. Mr. Morton and I recognize this fact. All of our officers at McGuinness work full time for the City of OKC. This is an extra job for these officers. We don’t want an officer who doesn’t believe in our goals and who is only here to make some extra money. We want people who genuinely enjoy our environment and the students, staff and activities. Just like you pick your friends, you know what you’re looking for in them. Same concept applies to hand selecting officers for McGuinness.”

Chapa has been on the job for more than 25 years and loves working with the youth. He credits the students here for following the majority of the rules and says outside threats concern him the most. 

“You just don’t know what motivates evil and people from the outside,” Chapa said. “Could it be they just want to hurt people in general or do they look at McGuinness as a religious target? The goal of myself and my officers is to identify and properly deal with any potential outside threat.”

They make sure no one is on campus who should not be and ensure the doors are locked to keep those people out. Officer Chapa attended an active shooter training over the summer and works closely with the school to ensure a plan is set for every teacher and classroom. 

“Different classrooms and areas of the schools face different challenges,” Chapa said. “The staff at McGuinness have been great in wanting to make our school the very safest place possible.”

The training he attended is called A.L.I.CE. training, an acronym outlining the response schools should take when responding to active shooters. It was two days long and involved developing action plans in the event a situation like that were to happen. 

“I have been able to come back to McGuinness and help the staff develop plans,” Chapa said. “McGuinness had very good plans in place but this allowed us to improve upon those plans.”