Board of Education discusses BB guns, school cameras and security staff

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COLUMBIA -The Columbia Board of Education met early Thursday morning to review and discuss plans to improve security and safety measures for Columbia Public Schools.

The meeting was led by the district's safety and security coordinator, John White.

"The main purpose of today's meeting is for parents to know that we have a plan," White said.

The district's project safety and security budget for the 2015-2016 school year is nearly $728,00. More than half of that budget funds camera and security equipment repairs, off-duty officers serving as security and, mostly, school resources officers. 

CPS Communication Director Michelle Baumstark said the district emphasizes the presence of resource officers on campuses. One board member said that having them in schools improves behavior.

White said that, beginning April 1, the district's current resource officer, who is based at the Center for Responsive Education, will start patrolling middle school campuses. He said the district has used this system before and is reverting to it.

Another change coming to CPS is the use of high definition cameras for security.

"The old analog cameras produced black-and-white footage that made it difficult to recognize faces and activity," White said.

The new cameras will also have remote access so staff members can view their facilities from wherever they are. 

Other measures White discussed include applying a protective film over glass doors and side light windows to district buildings and teaching intruder procedures to all MU students who work for the district as part of their curriculum.

White said the security measures are to protect students from every kind of potential threat. However, he said most active shooters in a school setting are already inside the building.

"We think that way when developing our plans," White said. "The mindset is that it's going to be an insider. Most active shooters are alone and we're telling them, 'You can come in, but you're going to have to cover every exit and every window'. They can't do that."

One board member asked how the system responded two incidents earlier this month when students brought BB guns to school.

White said a BB gun is not a safe school's violation.

"If it's not capable of applying lethal force, it's not a weapon," White said. "Now, if a student is showing it off and passing it around, that's another route of disciplinary action we'll have to take."

White said the BB gun incidents are a result of middle school boys doing "silly stuff". 

Superintendent Dr. Peter Stiepleman said the reaction those incidents should be to say, "Are you kidding me?". 

The board also discussed the state mandate for all new and renovated district buildings to be constructed to serve as disaster shelters for the community.

Baumstark said that decision is a result of the tornado in Joplin. She also said the changes will cost about $1 million in extra funding.

Voting for the board's proposed bond will take place in April.