State surveys school security

CASPER — In an effort to better understand how Wyoming’s 48 school districts are protecting their students, the state Department of Education is sending a survey to administrators across the Equality State. 

“The intent is not to be prescriptive,” state Superintendent Jillian Balow told the Star-Tribune. “The intent is to make sure we have a baseline of best practices and support systems for schools across the state.” 

The survey, which Balow sent to superintendents across the state in her weekly email to administrators, is open until Sept. 23. It has 20 questions for school principals, including what threat assessment tools they’re using; what training they undergo; how the school secures its entrances; and other security-related topics. 

School security has been an especially prominent topic in Wyoming since heavily armed men opened fire in two separate high schools in early 2018. Those two mass killings, one in Texas and the other in Florida, were the latest in a long string of bloodshed in America’s schools. They prompted action across the country and across Wyoming. Natrona County School District, for instance, hired seven new school resource officers in the span of a year, while updating its security protocols for every school. 

Other districts, like those in Lander and Evanston, approved policies allowing willing, trained and approved staff to carry weapons on campus. 

On the legislative front, lawmakers earlier this year proposed a bill that would’ve required baseline security protocols for every district in the state. That bill failed, to the disappointment of Balow and others, though many educators were lukewarm on the bill; it required things they were already doing, they said. 

Balow has said she will continue to press on school security, and this survey is an attempt to get an idea of what is being implemented across Wyoming’s many school systems, as training programs and threat plans can vary widely from district to district. 

Balow added that she hoped the results of the survey, which she will present publicly later this year, will help inform both her department’s security guidelines and potential future legislation. Once policymakers have a clearer idea of what’s being offered and undertaken across the state, they can more effectively craft a bill that covers gaps. 

She stressed that her goal wasn’t to “bring the hammer down” on school districts but to ensure there was a baseline of security protocols everywhere. 

“There’s no silver bullet that ensures that students are safe every day,” she said. “It is a combination, a comprehensive combination, of focus on school culture, focus on prevention and measures we can take both tangibly and intangibly to keep students safe.”