by Charles Collier, The Denmark News
DENMARK — Protecting against the unpredictable is often a stressful process. As school shootings have continued, however intermittently, to capture national attention, review of security protocol has become a common facet of every district administration.
Denmark’s district-wide security plan has been updated almost every year since 2012, the year in which Massachusetts students as young as six-years-old were slain in the Sandy Hook massacre.
“That night, I went home and I cried. I cried, and I cried, and I cried,” Denmark Superintendent Tony Klaubauf said. “It just tore me apart.”
Community meetings were held after that tragedy, bringing the notable addition of reinforced door locks to the schools. With the piece of metal in place on the inside of a room, classroom doors are nearly impregnable.
Legislation recently signed by Gov. Scott Walker appropriates $100 million in state-funded grants for every school—public and private—to upgrade its security. An informal meeting was held Thursday night in the middle school’s media center, attracting parents and educators of the District’s students to share the improvements they believe could be made.
The District has already committed to a redesigned entry way at the high school which would make the front-facing windows bullet-resistant and require visitors to submit to an instant background check before entering the building.
Visitors currently must check in at a desk in the lobby and are issued a numbered visitor pass, but many in the meeting felt this left those manning the desk as, “sitting ducks” for a potential shooter.
Forefront among parent concerns was the Denmark branch of the Brown County Public Library being housed in the high school. While the revamped entry protocol would limit random incomers, frequent library patrons could be issued a special pass. That raised hairs on some arms Thursday night.
“My main concern is that library, and the interaction between the general public. Being in the same vicinity as our students…you could have steel walls at the front door, but as soon as we let them in they are co-mingling with our students in a very small room. My biggest concern is definitely that interaction,” parent Ashley Claussen said during the meeting.
Creating a separate entrance for the library would be an architectural feat, as a single stairway leading to the second floor serves as its only in-way. Due to fire code restrictions and the existing layout of the facility, Director of Building and Grounds Nick Phillips said such a project would be unduly expensive, if not impossible.
The library has long been housed in the high school, making possible joint projects like higher speed internet, the availability of a 3-D printer, and vital intergenerational contact for the area’s aging population.
Jonathon Dzekute, who has been the District’s School Resource Officer (SRO) for the past three school years, said there haven’t been many large scale changes to the SRO role since he came on-board, save for varying types and schedules of drills.
“The biggest thing I’ve done is try to increase my presence in all the buildings to make sure that people know that I’m around; vary where I am and what I’m doing in the schools,” Dzekute told The Denmark News. “I wanted to be approachable to the students and I wanted them to be comfortable with me being in the school, not just ‘Oh, we’ve got a cop in the school.’”
Though proud of building good rapport with the students and a general sense that they are comfortable coming to him with issues, Dzekute said he is working with the Brown County Sheriff’s Dept. to create a tip-line for students who may not be as forthcoming with their observations.
Klaubauf cited that any particular school being involved in a mass shooting since 1999 is facing 1-in-614 million odds.
“When we see these things we think it’s going to happen to us, and it’s going to happen tomorrow. If you look at all the things that could happen to kids,” Klaubauf said. “Schools are very, very safe. I know because we watch T.V. all the time and we see these things happen we think they’re not, but statistically they are.”
BCSO Deputy Sheriff Todd DeLain said that, as a whole, the Village of Denmark is, “a safe community,” with the presence of Dzekute in the schools, officers contracted through BCSO dedicated to Denmark enforcement, and auxiliary coverage from BCSO.
“Denmark’s a safe, safe community. It’s a wonderful place to live,” DeLain said.
Middle School principal Amy Gleeson said a false alarm in that facility earlier this year triggered a lockdown drill. Within two minutes, County officers were on-site.
“It was great practice that was unintentional, and it really made everyone in the building feel very well protected,” Gleeson said.
DeLain said public meetings are important to ease the concerns of the community and to mutually benefit different institutions.
“Any time you can get in and have this communication and to be willing to honestly hear parents’ concerns, and understand that unless you have all the money in the world, you’re not going to solve all of them. But that you can prioritize and address them the best you can…the parents go home feeling safe, and their children also feel safe when they go back to school,” DeLain said.