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'This is our reality and this is where we are': School security in the forefront of discussion as kids head back to school

Security in schools (Pt. 1)
Security in schools (Pt. 1) 02:49

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- There are so many things that go into getting kids ready to go back to school, but this year, there is an undercurrent of security questions like never before.

School security isn't something that can be taken for granted any longer, and it is atop the mind of many both at school and at home.

Sandy Hook broke hearts and Uvalde shattered confidence.

"Anytime anything happens in an elementary school, that automatically heightens anxiety," said Aaron Skrbin.

Skrbin, who is the Director of Safety and Security for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, is tasked helping all 42 districts in the unit.

"The the intensity of focus on school safety has been really in hyperdrive. I would say kind of since the end of May," Skrbin said.

The events that occurred in Uvalde in May have sparked a security doubledown.

"So I would hazard a guess that nearly every district has done something in some fashion," Skrbin said.

Skrbin says that when districts have a need that they want to improve on or something they want to add, implement, or enhance to make their communities and schools safer, they call him.

From outside doors to classroom doors, in classrooms and in hallways, it's all getting another look.

"This is our reality and this is where we are," Skrbin said.

Skrbin says it's about more than hardening the schools. He says it's also about getting everyone on the same page.

An example of getting everyone on the same page involves communicating with families and telling them what districts are doing so that the same lessons can be reinforced at home.

Skrbin says that these conversations can be difficult and need to be done carefully because you don't want to transfer adult anxiety to children and have them pick up on it. 

Parents are advised to reach out to their school district first so that they can make sure that what they tell their children at home will be consistent with what is being told in school. 

Security in schools (Pt. 2) 03:04

As schools are now required to have School Safety and Security Coordinator training, districts are identifying and addressing their potential weaknesse

With the events in Uvalde leading to some basics being drilled home at schools across the country, Skrbin says there are some things that have become significant focus points.

"Make sure that you have locked doors and make sure that you're monitoring exits and entrances," Skrbin said.

Skrbin says that external doors are a point of vulnerability at the beginning and at the end of the school day.

"You have to control those egress and entry points very carefully and make sure that they're monitored," Skrbin said.

During the day, anyone entering the outside door should have another locked door to get through in order to get into the building, and Skrbin is telling schools that the ability to lock doors must include classrooms. 

"I think that is a minimum that ought to be done and I think a lot of schools are looking to that if they haven't already done it," Skrbin said.

Skrbin is an advocate for school resource officers or police officers to be on site at schools, but says the officers have to want to be there and need to go through training that is recognized as the national standard.

While the physical hardening of schools is crucial, Skrbin says no one should be afraid to have conversations about it.

"Kids need to be aware that they need to be prepared," Skrbin said.

If the worst-case scenario happens, the training is basic.

"Get out if you can. Hide if you can't. Fight if you must," Skrbin said.

"In addition to locking your door, you barricade anything that's not nailed down, you throw it in front of the door, and then you hide out of sight," Skrbin said.

Whatever the plan is, Skrbin says parents must be in the loop.

"Parents feel reassured. Kids feel reassured. You can do that by communicating. It's relationships. It all comes down to relationships," Skrbin said.

Before you start talking to your child about what to do, check with the school first to make sure you are reinforcing what they'll be told by their teacher.

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