Board reviews potential safety and security enhancements

Jamesville-DeWitt Central School District Board of Education members have recently been discussing potential safety and security enhancements at both the district and building levels. 

The district is continuously looking for ways to add to its existing security and safety measures and evaluating the programs it has in place. At the board’s Dec. 19 meeting, board members asked Superintendent Peter Smith to gather feedback on several options so that the board could then prioritize those options. 

At the board’s request, Smith shared during the board’s Jan. 9 meeting information about the following possible action items:

  • Contracting with an outside agency for a comprehensive district wide security audit
  • Expanding surveillance camera coverage, 
  • Hiring additional school resource officers, 
  • Installing a panic button that would immediately put a school on lockdown, including automatically shutting fire doors to limit building access, and 
  • Installing building access controls that would limit who has access to various entry points at and within the schools. 

The board did not make any decisions to move forward with any items, and its members will revisit the topic at their Jan. 23 meeting. 

As Smith reviewed his list, some board members questioned the process that would need to take place to add additional armed police officers or another type of security officer presence to the schools. The district would need to amend its formal safety plan that it submits annually to the state in September, Smith said. Before approving any changes, the board would first need to hold a public hearing and then a 30-day public comment period in which individuals could ask questions or raise concerns. 

The Jan. 9 board discussion often circled around the perception of safety, the reality of being safe and what security measures would be the most beneficial to J-D’s students and staff. As part of the discussion, Rev. H. Bernard Alex read a statement from the J-D District Equity Council, which had been asked to weigh in on the topic of safety. The council is in favor of a police-free approach to school safety and investing in positive safety and climate measures, according to the statement.

During the meeting’s two public comment sessions, community members spoke both for and against more police in the schools. 

Currently, the district has an agreement with the Town of DeWitt Police Department for one armed full-time police officer to be based at J-D High School. That officer also supports the district’s other four schools. The agreement with the town focuses the position on security matters rather than discipline. 

“I appreciate that the board members, as well as our community members, were thoughtful and candid in sharing their questions, concerns and viewpoints,” Smith said. “We all want our schools to be safe places where everyone also feels comfortable and welcome.”