Local schools see changes in year since shootings

Anna Conover

The shootings that claimed 15 lives one year ago at Columbine High School had pronounced effects not just on Littleton, Colo. but on school districts throughout central Iowa as well.

The Columbine tragedy sparked renewed interest in gun control and school safety, and it reshaped policies at Ames-area high schools.

Ames High School, 1921 Ames Drive, installed security cameras after the shooting occurred, said assistant principal Mike Avise. The high school, which has 1,621 students, had monitored doors before the Columbine incident, and it continues this policy.

“We’re always concerned for the safety of the people you are working with, both the staff and the students, even long before Columbine,” Avise said.

The shooting increased awareness, Avise said. The administration along with police and other officials devised a plan for a shooting if it were to occur at the high school.

The administration also deals with safety issues and threats to students, Avise said.

Administrators in Nevada are also taking security precautions for their 500 high school students.

Harold Hulleman, superintendent of Nevada schools, said some of the precautions include locking doors, making sure all visitors have passes and creating an emergency response plan.

“We’re concerned with the shootings since there has been a rash of it in the country, but not specifically in our district,” he said. “We’re trying to be vigilant.”

The school has handed out information and published information in the school newsletters about gun violence and necessary safety precautions, Hulleman said.

Unlike Ames High, Nevada doesn’t have security cameras in the building, but administrators are conscious of people who appear suspicious, and they then deal with the situations.

Gilbert administrators, who oversee 475 students in grades 7 through 12, monitor issues pertaining to student safety not just from the standpoint of guns, said Doug Williams, superintendent.

“All schools have to deal with security,” he said. “We certainly monitor what is happening in our district and make changes as we see fit.”

Other than asking visitors to sign in at the appropriate office and carry passes, school officials haven’t changed much of its security measures, Williams said. The doors are not locked nor are there any security cameras.

But Gilbert administrators put in a policy concerning dangerous weapons and developed an emergency guide with Story County Director of the Emergency Planning Department Lori Morrisey in case a situation such as Columbine were to occur, Williams said.

The plan was distributed to all employees, the Emergency Planning Department and other agencies, including the fire department and police.

“Times have changed,” Williams said. “There are issues that weren’t there five to 10 years ago. All school districts have to change security and adapt as needed.”

All three schools have a zero-tolerance policy on guns to comply with federal regulations. If a student is found in violation of the policy, he or she is automatically expelled for one year.