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Day schools review security protocols

Every school shooting jars administrators, faculty and parents. Denver’s Jewish day schools are no different. Security procedures and protocols are reviewed and evaluated after every shooting.

Today’s adults will remember fire drills, of course. Depending on where they lived in the country, there were also tornado drills. Baby boomers may also remember the civil defense drills during the Cold War in the late 1950s and early ‘60s.

These days, all schools have lock-down drills in response to the proliferation of school shootings and terrorist threats. Students and staff practice how quickly they can move to safe areas of their buildings as all entrances are locked.

On Friday, Dec. 13, at Arapahoe High School, a student, Karl Pierson, entered the school, shot another student, Claire Davis, who remains in critical condition as of Tuesday, Dec. 17. He then killed himself.

The heads of four Denver day schools feel it is best practice not to discuss specific security policies and procedures and protocols.

Avi Halzel, head of school and CEO at Denver Jewish Day School, grades K-12, says, “We have robust and detailed security measures and plans in place to deal with every eventuality.

“We review our security measures frequently and make changes based on what has been learned from recent events.”

Mordechai Hoffman, executive director of Hillel Academy, grades K-8, explains:

“We consulted extensively with representatives from the Dept. of Homeland Security, both before and after receiving and implementing a significant grant from them for upgraded security measures approximately 18 months ago.

“We remain in touch with their representatives at the state level, who have given invaluable time and direction as to how best to secure our facility.

“We also keep in regular touch with local law enforcement, who know us and know our building well.

“There are some clearly visible measures in place, but there are also many non-tangible but extremely effective procedures that can be undertaken. Lockdown drills and plans are as valuable for any school as fire drills, to limit that initial confusion should something happen, G-d forbid, and to ensure everyone knows where to be in the event of an emergency. The best thing any school can do is to plan, plan and plan some more.”

Hoffman also confirmed that Hillel Academy has a plan for communicating with families in the event of an emergency, using several communications media such as phone, email and text.

“The communications options really are not that different from those that we would use to call a snow day or a late start, we just are less concerned about overlap — it is better that a parent hears three times, than doesn’t hear at all.”

Rabbi Daniel Alter, head of school of Denver Academy of Torah, grades K-12, said: “We have received a significant federal grant from Homeland Security to upgrade our security system. We work with law enforcement regularly in creating and revisiting our security systems and protocols.”

Rabbi Aharon Waserman, president and CEO of Yeshiva Toras Chaim, boys, grades 8-12, said, “We take security very seriously.”

He told the IJN that Yeshiva Toras Chaim received a grant from the Dept. of Homeland security “which enabled us to have 24-hour surveillance.”

The Yeshiva constantly reviews its detailed security policies and procedures, he said.

The IJN did not receive comments on security from Beth Jacob High School for Girls.

Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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IJN Associate Editor | [email protected]

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