No school safety plan is perfect

Since the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14, many schools across the country have been looking at their own security measures and trying to decide how they can make sure school is safer for students. This includes schools right here in Marquette County.

An article printed the Jan. 5 issue of The Mining Journal looked at what area schools were considering to make sure a similar tragedy won’t occur in their districts.

Gwinn Area Community Schools was one of the first districts to take action.

Every school building in the Gwinn district now has electronic locks on the outside doors that can only be opened by a buzzer system placed in the main office of each building. Someone visiting the school has to hit a buzzer, look into a camera, state who they are and why they are visiting the school before a secretary will allow them into the school.

When I first heard about these measures, I thought it might be a little overkill. I?didn’t think there was much chance other schools were going to follow suit. But after going to the Negaunee and Ishpeming school board meetings over the past couple of weeks I’ve found that this system is something many schools are considering. The Negaunee Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the same recommendations for improved security – and approved installing cameras in the hallways at its meeting Monday.

As Negaunee Superintendent Jim Derocher said at the board meeting, these measures can’t ensure the complete safety of the students but they will help give parents and staff some peace of mind while students are at school.

At the board meetings, I learned that schools had been fielding calls from parents concerned about the safety of their own children after the Sandy Hook tragedy.

I’m not a mother and I definitely grew up in a different time. The only drills we practiced in school were for fires and tornadoes. And I don’t see how these measures could make it absolutely impossible for a horrible shooting to happen in our area. If someone is really determined to get into a school building, they will.

But, like many of the parents I’ve heard, I’m glad to see area superintendents being proactive. They’re trying to make sure students feel safer – and are safer.

Editor’s note: Recent Northern Michigan University graduate and Mining Journal Ishpeming Bureau reporter Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-228-2500. Her email address is