TULSA - Tulsa Public Schools students headed back to school Monday for the first time since the Newtown, Conn. tragedy. The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School is forcing school districts across Green Country to rethink their safety protocol.
On Monday, Tulsa Public Schools, with support from Tulsa police and Mayor Dewey Bartlett, addressed changes to the district's security protocols in wake of the Newton shooting during a press conference at the Education Service Center.
Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan, TPS Police Chief Gary Rudick and Mayor Bartlett all took the podium to talk about the importance of safety in the city's schools.
"We're doing everything we possibly can to ensure that the children who came to Tulsa Public Schools this morning will be safe," said Ballard.
Among the most visible changes is increased police presence on TPS campuses beginning Monday. Jordan said Tulsa police are making themselves accessible to teachers and educators. If a lapse in safety is spotted, Jordan said a solution will be found.
In addition to Tulsa police, 23 certified officers are members of the TPS police department.
Rudick said police presence on school properties is the biggest deterrent to crime, and with limited funds, metal detectors and automatically locking doors are not the best investment.
Already in place at many of the city's schools are security cameras and a feature called option doors that keep all visitors outside the door until they have been identified.
By 2015 all TPS schools will have the same security technology.
Schools are also required to conduct more than a dozen emergency safety drills every year.
On Monday, Bartlett spoke of the importance of communication and cooperation between the Tulsa police and TPS officers.
Already in place is an inneroperable radio communication system, which allows TPS officers to communicate directly with Tulsa police officers. The school police department recently invested $70,000 of grant money in a computer assisted dispatch system similar to that of the city's police department. Both allow for improved communication between TPD and TPS.
Rudick said even more cooperation between the two agencies had been planned before the Newtown massacre. In the meantime, existing policies and practices will be reviewed to keep students safe.
Jordan commented on the recent Bartlesville school shooting threat. On Friday, an 18-year-old student was arrested after a tip from another student. Investigators say the teen wanted to lure kids to the high school auditorium, chain the doors and start shooting. They also say he planned to leave bombs at the doors to kill officers as they approached.
Jordan said, "They did an outstanding job in Bartlesville in preventing what could've been just as horrible a tragedy."
Bartlett weighed in, saying communication between students, teachers and parents was instrumental in preventing an incident in Bartlesville.
In closing, Ballard said, "Your children are as safe as can possibly be."
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