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Clean and Safe

New security measures for back to school

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Second–grader Nikolas Blanchette crosses the street with crossing guard Roy Ingerson on the first day back to school at Thorntons Ferry Elementary in Merrimack, N.H. (Photo: ©The Telegraph, Bob Hammerstrom/AP Images)
Second–grader Nikolas Blanchette crosses the street with crossing guard Roy Ingerson on the first day back to school at Thorntons Ferry Elementary in Merrimack, N.H. (Photo: ©The Telegraph, Bob Hammerstrom/AP Images)

Students returning to Thurgood Marshall Middle School this week found a pleasant surprise. The broken windows, shabby lawn, and cracked walkways were gone! They found landscaped grounds and a spiffed-up building—all part of new school safety plan developed by GE Security and Lynn, Massachusetts, school officials.

"The appearance of a building influences how students behave," says Ray Lauk of GE Security. "When kids see that the school is in beautiful shape, they maintain pride in the building."

Tighter Security

In addition to the makeover, Marshall is now equipped with new security doors. They will prevent outsiders from gaining access to the building without first reporting to the main office.

Staff members will need ID cards to gain access. The cards must be waved at an electronic access keypad outside the doors to trigger them to open.

A total of 16 cameras—eight inside, eight outside—were installed at Marshall. The cameras have been strategically placed in areas where problems have occurred in the past.

"There is gang activity in the neighborhood," says Cathie Latham, a deputy school superintendent in Lynn. "There have been problems with students pulling a fire alarm. The cameras will keep track of what’s going on and discourage bad behavior."

The cameras will be watched by school administrators during the day. On nights and weekends, cameras will be monitored by the Lynn Police Department.

Teaching and Learning

The school district’s decision to team up with GE Security was made last year after food fights, a teacher prank, and a shooting threat left Marshall’s 990 students and staff members on edge.

A student paints a mural on the walls of Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

One student interviewed about the new security system had a positive reaction. “I think it’s good for the school,” says student Janisa Grullon. "The kids, they can feel safer."

Lauk admits that it’s a challenge for schools to strike a balance between creating a safe, orderly environment and maintaining a warm, welcoming atmosphere. School officials in Lynn, he says, have met the challenge.

"Lynn has set high expectations for behavior so that the focus is on one thing—and that’s learning," says Lauk.

Lynn is the first district in the nation to test the new $100,000 security system. GE Security is also partnering with school districts in Manatee County, Florida, and Scottsdale, Arizona.

CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION

Read today's news story, and then answer the following question.

 

What can your school do to create a safer environment?

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