HSE officials, parents discuss school safety in community forum

Parents filled an auditorium to discuss school safety at Hamilton Southeastern.
Noblesville West School Shooting- How to keep kids safe
HSE school safety meeting
HSE school safety discussions

FISHERS, Ind. (WTHR) — Keeping classroom doors locked and watching out for mental health issues were just some of the security concerns that came up at Wednesday night's "Safe City, Safe Schools" meeting at Hamilton Southeastern High School.

Just days after the shooting at Noblesville West Middle School, parents brought their questions and ideas to nearby Hamilton Southeastern Wednesday night.

In 2013, Hamilton Southeastern made major security upgrades at all schools.

From doors that require all visitors be buzzed in to cameras to police patrolling the halls. All after the Sandy Hook shootings. Around Indiana that year, districts shared $9 million in safety grants and that fall taught students to run, hide, and even fight their attackers.

Assistant School Superintendent Mike Baersford said at Wednesday's meeting, "We're at a shaky point tonight. We've had trauma just up the road from us."

Hamilton Southeastern's security head welcomed everyone to the school safety talk that drew hundreds. It was the biggest community turnout the school resource officer says he's ever seen.

"I have two kids, they go here and I just wanted to know what their thoughts are. If you're thinking about changing anything," said parent Julie Burgess.

"I'm here to learn how the schools my kids may go to one day are handling this sort of thing."

They reviewed the hardware of school safety, but also the software, like counseling and mental health services that can ID problems early and maybe prevent tragedy. One parent asked, "What happens if a student shows they're a threat to the school environment?"

The school resource officer said it's "not uncommon to take the student to Community (Hospital) for an emergency evaluation."

But he said often school counselors deal with the issue.

One student told us before the meeting, "Mental health and mental illness is one of the primary reasons we see these school shootings."

So he and other students run the "STIGMA FREE HSE" program to let others know asking for help is OK.

"If we had an open environment where people can talk about their mental illness and how they actually feel on the inside that is where we can help," Ranvir Sandhu said.

"I see a number of comments about (metal) detectors," said the mayor, who read written questions from the audience.

To that metal detector issue, Superintendent Dr. Allen Bourff said, "How do you finance that kind of project?" and discussed the logistics.

"Processing 3,200-3,300 students in the course of 15-20 minutes is a logistical issue," he said.

He also says metal detectors work best with a limited number of doors. A school has many doors and staffing to handle all of those metal detectors to move all of those students efficiently would be costly.

Still, the district will do what it has done for years. They'll update and review policy and procedures.

The school resource officer says he was impressed with the way Noblesville students and faculty handled that situation, sheltering in their classrooms - sheltering their students and one another.