Fillmore County schools and law enforcement meet on school safety

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Left to right: Fillmore County Sheriff John DeGeorge, school safety meeting organizer; Matt Schultz, Superintendent of Lanesboro School; Adam Eide, Rushford Police Chief; and Ben Bernard, superintendent of the Rushford-Peterson school. Photos submitted and by Wanda Hanson

When Sheriff John DeGeorge heard details of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, he anticipated questions from the public about local preparedness for such an event in Fillmore County. Thinking about it, he wondered if the schools also received questions. DeGeorge decided to invite Fillmore County school administrators and local police chiefs to attend a joint meeting with the sheriff’s department to discuss their plans for dealing with such situations.

DeGeorge sent out email invitations and within days received positive responses from everyone involved. On July 12, administrators from every school in the county, police chiefs from every town that had one, and the sheriff’s department met at the Lanesboro school, showing how they all prioritized school safety.

The media were not allowed to attend the meeting; what follows is a compilation of the thoughts and reactions of many of the people who attended the meeting.

Just meeting face to face and knowing who would be the people to work together in an emergency was important to everyone. Lanesboro Superintendent Matt Schultz said it’s good to hear everyone’s perspectives. He appreciated to learn that not only would the local police respond and that law enforcement was monitoring traffic in the area.

Preston Police Chief Blaise Sass said the meeting was loosely structured, with the majority of the time devoted to questions and answers; he noted that it was a good way to build relationships between schools and law enforcement.

Scott Klavetter, Superintendent of Kingsland, said what stood out most to him was the frequency of responses from schools – they had similar questions and concerns and used similar strategies and approaches. Ben Bernard, superintendent of Rushford-Peterson, agreed, noting that the meeting provided a “beautiful comprehensive picture of the county, its history and anticipated responses.”

Fillmore Central Superintendent Heath Olstad appreciated how the schools were all on the same page with the ultimate goal of a safe learning environment for students.

Sheriff DeGeorge was impressed with the thought and evaluation the schools had already put into their plans. The administrators’ questions focused on the finer points of the details of their well-thought-out plans.

DeGeorge emphasized the different purposes and roles of the parties in a situation: “The primary purpose of teachers is to be educators; ours is to deal with tactical operations.

Sheriff DeGeorge assured the public, “When a deputy gets a call about an active shooter, we don’t wait. We respond immediately. Our first priority is always to eliminate this threat.

Rushford Police Chief Adam Eide also commented: “You won’t see us waiting to get into a situation. Time is a waste of life. We train and train and hope we never need it.

Most schools in Fillmore County use ALICE or some form of it. ALICE is an active threat response training program that helps prepare personnel to respond to a situation. The acronym ALICE stands for Alert, Lock, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. Many schools have staff already trained in ALICE. Most county schools plan to review and/or present ALICE again this fall to their staff.

Bernard shared that the sheriff’s department had already done active shooter training at RP on a non-column day and planned to do another training at another school in the county in the future.

Chief Eide shared his frustration with previous drills schools had done, which were modeled after fire and weather drills. He pointed out that in today’s world, students need permission to do anything in school. He praised the ALICE model which gives teachers and students the tools to choose between fight or flight.

sEide said the meeting forced the group to have uncomfortable conversations. They discussed how to secure doors and discussed some inexpensive options. Eide said he already had a key fob for the school’s exterior doors, but would also get a master key for the interior doors.

Matt Schultz noted that one change Lanesboro School will be making as a result of the meeting is to provide access to the building for law enforcement as well as sharing updated floor plans from the school.

Superintendent Gary Kuphal shared other security improvements at Mabel-Canton – an upgrade to the camera system will provide higher quality cameras with more cameras placed inside and outside the building. Also, the school office has been moved and all visitors are routed to the office.

When asked if there would be another meeting of the group, Sheriff DeGeorge replied that it would “definitely be realistic” and noted that such a meeting could also cover other shared topics. Kuphal suggested that in addition to law enforcement, it might be beneficial to invite probation officers, social services and possibly representatives of the justice system depending on the topic as they discuss helping people. Fillmore County youth.

Olstad pointed out that Fillmore Central already has a very close working relationship with Chief Sass and Sheriff DeGeorge and looks forward to continuing. Bernard plans to talk to Chief Eide about the specifics of the RP building.

When asked about messages to the public, Matt Schultz commented, “We will continue to make child safety our priority; the first thing we can do is love the children in our building.

Principal Eric Nelson, Chatfield Schools, wanted the public to know that schools and law enforcement are working together to have a ‘transparent partnership’.

Klavetter asked, “If you see something, say something!” He stressed the importance of addressing mental health needs and ensuring that children are cared for and supported.

Bernard commented: “We will give it our all. If children don’t feel safe, they won’t learn as well.

Chief Sass said, “We better fix a problem before it happens. We can all help keep our communities and schools safe.

Sheriff DeGeorge is glad the lines of communication are open; as a parent, he appreciates the quality of the schools’ preparation. He noted that specific details of the plans will not be shared in order to protect the effectiveness of the plans.

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