School violence is on peopleâ??s minds now more than ever.
In the past ten years, there have been 111 school shootings in the United States. Six of them were in Michigan, and twelve happened this year alone.
7&4 News wanted to know how safe schools in Northern Michigan are.
We outfitted our producer with two small cameras. Obeying all posted signs, he tried to enter six Northern Michigan schools.
Our first stop was a school in Traverse City. The side doors were locked, and there were no signs instructing him to report to the office.
Our producer was standing at the side door when a group of students lets him in. He entered, roaming several wings of the school. He passed students, classrooms and staff.
Eight minutes later, a staff member approached him and directed him to the office.
The test over, we shared the video with Traverse City Area Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cousins.
â??My first reaction is that I'm happy that our staff responded in the way that we would expect them to when they saw a person in the building that they didn't recognize; that they approached them and followed the proper procedures,â?? Cousins said. â??There is more work we need to do with our kids in regard to the safety of the building."
We found the same results at another school in Traverse City. The doors were locked, but there werenâ??t any signs.
Our producer was let in to this school by a student as well. The office was straight ahead, but to get there he walked by about six classrooms and students.
Schools in Leelanau, Antrim and Charlevoix Counties had locked doors and signs that directed visitors to the office.
The tightest security we found was at Petoskey High School. Our producer walked through an open side door, but there were physical barriers leading to the office.
â??That was a design we worked on a summer or two ago; it was one of the upgrades to security we worked on,â?? Petoskey Schools Superintendent John P. Scholten said. â??We actually channel all the traffic through so during the day any visitor has to come right through the high school office.â??
Michigan now requires one lockdown drill per year at every school.
As TCAPS remodels schools, they add cameras to most entrances and monitors to the offices.There are also two sheriff's deputies that patrol the district.
â??They work hand in hand with the school,â?? Undersheriff Nate Alger said. â??They address safety problems, they address criminal problems, they address civil issues that they students or staff may have.â??
Both Alger and Cousins agree that security has improved. However, theyâ??ve had to it with fewer resources.
â??In 2010, due to budget cuts, we had to remove the school liaison officers from individual schools,â?? Alger said. â??Now we have an officer on the east side and the west side.â??
â??A new school will have a direct line of sight from the main entrance to the office; any new building that we reconstruct or remodel will have those features,â?? Cousins said. â??That was a major point of our last bond issue that failed in November.â??
Making sure children are applying caution in the everyday lives is the next step.
â??No matter what the person looks like on the other side of the door, do not open the door,â?? Alger said.
The school district is now taking action to make sure the children have the same understanding of school security as their staff.
â??Since you guys contacted me and let me know that this occurred, I've talked to the principal of that school about what steps we could take to beef up our conversation with our students,â?? Cousins said. â??Then, our chief of schools will take that up with all of our principals.â??
The schools with entrances that arenâ??t right by the office have made changes to overcome their design in the last couple years. The Charlevoix school we went to put cameras at every point of entry.
All of the school offcials we spoke with said that security is their top priority.