School shootings spawn school security changes

10:35 PM, Dec 14, 2012   |    comments
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Sarasota, Florida- The tragedy in Connecticut makes parents wonder how safe their child's school is, and it makes school officials wonder about their own school's security.

Police officers say with each school shooting, lessons are learned. Sarasota Police Chief Paul Sutton says one lesson tragedies like Columbine in 1999 taught school officials and law enforcement, is to act quickly because time can cost lives.

Chief Sutton says, "If there is still an active shooter, every round that goes off is potential for additional victim."  

Since Columbine, officers nationwide have been retrained. 

Chief Sutton says when there's an active shooter anywhere, such as a school or a mall, law enforcement officers move in once enough are present.

"Many years ago the philosophy was to set a perimeter, get people out, wait for the SWAT team to respond. But that response took time. When you have an active shooter, during that time you'll have additional victims," explains Chief Sutton.

The goal for law enforcement and school officials is to prevent the situation.

"The staff practices training and lock downs. There's a culture where security becomes everybody's business," says Sarasota School District's Chief Operating Officer Scott Lempe. "If they see someone they don't know, they'll stop and ask why they are here."

Since Columbine in 1999, schools have stepped up campus security across the nation. 

In Sarasota, and most public schools across the bay area, schools have security gates; visitors usually have one way in and one way out; visitors' driver's licenses are scanned- looking for sexual predators. 

Lempe says Sarasota schools have more than 3,000 cameras monitoring campuses.

"Those cameras record everyday movement; 24-7-365, schools are monitored. A principal can go on and see what's happening in their school anywhere anytime," says Lempe. "Security is never perfect. If someone wants to commit a crime and put their life at risk, we can't completely stop that. We do spend our energy on things that are efficient and effective to make sure students are safe and secure."

Elementary schools do not have School Resource officers. They are found in middle schools and high schools. Sarasota's police chief says SROs are only part of the solution, one possibly worth revisiting.

Soon after the shooting in Connecticut, Chief Sutton sent police officers to every school within the city limit to address any security concerns principals and teachers had, and to reassure them Sarasota Police officers are there to help.

10 News checked with the Sarasota Sheriff's Office, but  spokesperson Wendy Rose says the sheriff's office "does not comment on national stories."

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