Keeping kids safe: school security discussed at forum

Small crowd came to W.J. Mouat to talk about safety in school district 34

Abbotsford school district superintendent Kevin Godden addresses parents at a forum on school security.

Abbotsford school district superintendent Kevin Godden addresses parents at a forum on school security.

Nearly three months after the random stabbing at Abbotsford Senior Secondary, district officials held a forum to discuss safety and security in its schools.

The forum, held at W.J. Mouat Secondary on Wednesday, was part of a months-long review process at the district meant to find any improvements that could be made to keep students and staff safe.

Police, fire, ambulance and district officials all reacted “magnificently” on the tragic day in question, according to superintendent Kevin Godden. After the shock wore off, a sober look at policy was needed, he said.

“After stabilizing, we took a step back to take a dispassionate look at security,” he told the small crowd of about 20 attendees, including district officials.

The district’s assistant superintendent, Angus MacKay, told the assembled crowd about the contents of its “green binder” – the school’s standard emergency operating procedures manual – which includes plans for everything from earthquakes to bear sightings.

MacKay said the review process is looking into many different policies and procedures, including how it locks its building doors, how it communicates with parents and how it surveys its properties.

He said one procedure that may change is to give teachers the power to initiate a lockdown from within their classrooms, either by using their landline phone or a smartphone app. Such a change has been implemented in La Loche, Sask., since the fatal shooting there in Jan. 2016.

The district is also compiling debriefing reports from Abbotsford police, WorkSafeBC and other community partners as part of the review, he said.

All of the elements of the review process should be finished by March 31, when a final report with policy change recommendations will be presented to the board of trustees, MacKay said.

Every operational Abbotsford Police Department patrol car will soon have master keys to every school in the district, MacKay said. The keys will allow police to access schools from the exterior as well as interior doors in a lockdown situation.

The district and police have been working on the plan since several schools were locked down last year and police did not have immediate access.

Sgt. Casey Vinet, who heads APD’s Youth Squad and liaises with the district, said he hopes to have the keys in squad cars in the coming weeks.

Tawnya Church, who has one child each at Yale Secondary and McMillan Elementary, said she has been generally pleased with how the school district has handled the fallout from the Nov. 1 stabbings.

“The staff handled it amazingly,” she said. “All practices put in place worked.”