2013-08-29 / Front Page

Schools ratchet up security

By Patti Brandt
of the Enterprise staff


ROB COUTURIER, a Lake Leelanau summer resident, is shown installing a simple, steel device he invented for 80 classroom doors at Northport School, which is the first district to purchase the security system. ROB COUTURIER, a Lake Leelanau summer resident, is shown installing a simple, steel device he invented for 80 classroom doors at Northport School, which is the first district to purchase the security system. In Chicago, ‘Safe Passage’ routes manned by yellow-vested city employees armed with cell phones have been laid out. The routes are meant to protect students who are walking to school through ganginfested areas.

Some students across the nation, in addition to notebooks, calculators and maybe a laptop, will be carrying bulletproof whiteboards meant to shield them from gunfire. Others are tucking their school gear into bullet proof backpacks.

It’s all aimed at keeping students safe in an era when the psychologically unfit march into classrooms with guns and kill indiscriminately.

While Leelanau County schools may number among the safest in the nation, even here measures are being taken to protect children — just in case.

In the Northport district, all classrooms are now protected by the “Boot,” a simple device that prevents a door from being opened by someone meaning to harm students.

Other districts have systems that can lock down all external doors with the touch of a button, and one school — Suttons Bay — redesigned its layout for safety. It converted a classroom to an elementary office so that staff would have a clear view of visitors entering the building. That’s something they couldn’t do from the office’s former location on the second floor.

Lockdown drills have also been added to the battery of regular drills taking place in today’s schools.

Sarah Eggert has a third-grader and a fourth-grader attending school in Northport, which she said is already a safe place.

“They have the kids tucked away in the farthest back corner of the school,” Eggert said, with the outside doors locked. If anyone wants to get in they have to go all the way around to the front of the school, she said.

“I feel like it’s pretty safe right now,” she said. “But it’s always good to be cautious. I think that we live in a safe area, but nothing is safe anymore.”

Holly Reay, who has a fourth-grader and an eighth-grader at Glen Lake Community Schools, said she’s not running out to buy bullet proof equipment for her children. But she supports precautions taken by schools.

“I believe that it’s not the kind of thing that’s going to happen around here, but it can’t hurt to be safe,” Reay said. “No one is going to be hurt by extra safety.”

A company called Hardwire Armor Systems is marketing a bulletproof whiteboard that measures 18 by 20 inches and is meant to shield a student or teacher during a gunfire attack. The whiteboard, weighing in at about four pounds, sells for $300.

Several companies are reporting that their bullet proof backpacks, which sell for about $150, are flying off shelves.

Reay said those kinds of products seem excessive for Leelanau County.

“Glen Lake is such a little bubble of perfection,” she said, which is one of the reasons she and husband, Tom Reay, are raising their family in Leelanau County. They are owners of the Funistrada restaurant in Burdickville. “I just don’t see it as being an issue out here.”

Reay says she would feel otherwise if she lived somewhere else. Her best friend is a teacher in the Detroit suburbs who has recently obtained a permit to carry a gun, she said.

“She tells me constantly how lucky I am,” Reay said. “I realize it’s different in other places.”

The Leland school district installed an electronic locking system about three or four years ago, said Jason Stowe, superintendent. The district has also looked at installing the Boot, but has not made any decisions, Stowe said.

“We’re feeling pretty good about our policies right now,” Stowe said. “We always want to do the best we can to keep our kids safe.”

Return to top