MCPS to add card access and security cameras to schools - | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

MCPS to add card access and security cameras to schools

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Schools across the nation continue adding security or assessing their safety procedures as these days kids are more at risk during the school period than just a scraped knee on the playground. Now, Missoula County Public School District will join the many other districts who have security vestibules as a first line of defense to control access to campuses.

 All throughout children's lives, parents and adults emphasize to them the fundamentals of staying safe such as "don't talk to strangers", "look before you cross the street"  and "don't drink and drive." 

School is supposed to be a safe zone for kids, but it's not as safe as it used to be. 

In the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 5% of surveyed middle and high students across Montana said they did not go to school because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school. 5.5% said they were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property during a 30 period. 7.6% said they were in a physical fight on school property during a 12 month period. 25% of the surveyed students said they were bullied during a 12 month period. This number is higher than the national average. 

The Montana Office of Public Instruction says despite those numbers, expulsion is not a common thing in any school district in the state. They cannot unveil those numbers if they are less than 5 for confidentiality reasons, but no district in Montana has a school with over 5 expulsions. 

Suspensions were a different story. 359 kids were suspended in the 2014-2015 school year in Missoula County Public Schools alone. 

Hatton Littman, MCPS director of technology and communications, says adding new security vestibules is not directly related to any isolated incident, but the intent is to make schools safer.

Last year, Missoula voters approved a $158 million school bond that would not only bring technical and structural upgrades to schools, but make them safer as well. All schools in MCPS will eventually use card access for entry. Most will have surveillance cameras at the entrance doors, which are monitored all the time, and some additional cameras in certain hallways.

This is something the Billings School District has done for the past 16 years. BSD administrators say it's worked well for them, causing very little trouble. Now MCPS is hoping for the same success from this added security measure.

"The reality is Missoula is not immune to safety issues that could happen any time just like they happen in small towns across the country so we can't always predict strange emergency scenarios that are going to happen. We are making those entry vestibules safer," says Littman.

Not every inch of the schools will be covered. The hall cameras are mainly there for purpose of review if an incident does occur. The card access and entrance cameras will be the real difference makers. They will be used all the time to let school staff know when someone is in the building.

The security systems will be built into the schools currently being constructed with all other schools to follow. 

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