Keeping schools safe in Mayfield

The Leader-Herald/Briana O’Hara Parents of Mayfield Central School District attend Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino’s School Safety presentation Tuesday.

MAYFIELD — In wake of the recent school shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, school safety has become a major priority throughout the nation.

Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino and Undersheriff Daniel Izzo gave a school safety presentation at Mayfield High School on Tuesday.

Giardino and Izzo also spoke about what to do if there were ever an active shooter on campus.

Giardino briefly spoke about implementing a school resource officer for the five school districts: Broadalbin-Perth Central School District, Wheelerville Union Free School District, Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District, Northville Central School District and Mayfield Central School District. The resource officer would rotate periodically between schools.

Izzo showed participants a slide show on school shootings and school safety. He began with what an active shooter is, the history of school shootings and how the way police handle school shootings has changed.

He said an active shooter is someone who is actively killing people. Someone with a knife can also be aggressive, deadly behavior.

He spoke about the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. Izzo said Columbine changed the protocol for a school shooting.

“Police would arrive, they would stay outside the school and wait for the SWAT teams to come to the school, and the SWAT team would make entry and take care of the situation,” Izzo said.

Izzo said the issue with that method was that not all SWAT teams work full-time. There is a full-time SWAT team in Albany, so the response time — depending on where the school is — could be an hour or more. Izzo explained that at Columbine police with guns stayed outside the school while the shooters were inside.

“After Columbine the tactic changed that. As soon as police arrive, you enter the building and take care of the situation. You don’t wait for SWAT,” Izzo said.

In 2012, the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Connecticut saw 20 students, many as young as 7, killed. Izzo said that shooting gained a lot of national attention which led to the creation of the Safe ACT in New York state.

Izzo stated a number of facts about school shootings. He said they are difficult predict and prevent, no matter how well prepared police are. He said it will take time for police to get to the school; the only people who can do anything are those inside the school when the shooting is occurring; if there isn’t a plan the only person in charge is the shooter; faculties are the first responders to a shooting; and the average length of an active shooting is six minutes.

On the average, someone is shot every three seconds in an active shooting,” Izzo said. “Every second is a life taken.”

Izzo stated ways to prevent a school shooting that include, a school resource officer, monitoring social media, reporting rumors, good situational awareness, creating layers of security, and having a plan.

“You want to build as many layers, as many rings of security as you can to protect yourself,” Izzo said.

He said to know who is who, to know the students, know who to keep an eye on, and report any information and let the sheriff decide if it needs to be acted on.

Izzo said the faculty and staff have to be trained to know how to react if there is an active shooter.

“The first time they react to an active shooter can’t be during the real deal,” he said.

Izzo continued to explain that the first officers on scene of an active shooting are to run to where the shooting is taking place and stop the shooting. He said that is what the national level standard is and what they are teaching all of the law enforcement in Fulton County to do.

“Even after the shooting is stopped it’s going to be hours before everything is done and secure because what we have to do as law enforcement is we have to clear the entire school,” Izzo said. “We call it man-sized space to be checked.”

For an example, if a student is shot and goes to hide, law enforcement will need to find that student. “We need to find every student, we need to know where everyone is,” Izzo said.

Izzo said he has been going from school to school in the district to try to develop one plan every school in the district can follow if there is ever a school shooting.

“Because we cannot respond to Mayfield school one way and Northville school another way,” Izzo said.

Superintendent Jon Peterson also spoke to attendees about how the school district planned to keep students safe within the schools.

“The most important thing to us is the safety of our kids and for me its the safety of the people that we employee too,” he said.

Peterson mentioned parts of the capital project are aimed to keep the students and staff safe within the schools.

“We already have in the plans to improve and enhance our current safety and security systems,” Peterson said. “We’re going to have what’s called a secure vestibule.”

The secure vestibule makes it so when students, or any visitors, come in the school entrance, they will have to go directly into the school office. Peterson said with the current system, once someone is buzzed into the school, they can wonder wherever, but the secure vestibule will stop that from happening.

Other parts of the plan include having more cameras installed, card access systems and bullet proof glass.

He then spoke about how students reported what they thought was a threat made to Mayfield High School. Peterson said one of the students received a Snapchat of a bunch of weapons lain out on a bed and stated

“Attention MHS these are loaded and I’m coming to school.” The students who received the S

napchat shared it with their parent who shared it with a teacher who then brought it to the attention of the sheriff department.

“My compliments to the sheriff,” Peterson said. “In a short period of time we identified that the threat was actually from a school — MHS — in Virginia.” The individual who made the threat had been arrested.

By Kerry Minor

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