With recent, potentially serious events occurring at Carbon schools, many residents are concerned about student safety. Carbon School District administrators along with local law enforcement officials understand the concern and ensure that continued efforts to boost safety is ongoing.
On April 11, students at Castle Heights Elementary were forced into lockdown when a vehicle jumped the curb and came to rest on the playground. Christopher Craig was arrested following the incident, charged with disorderly conduct.
Soon after the elementary school incident, Mont Harmon Junior High was also forced into lockdown following reports of a student in possession of a weapon. Following quick response by law enforcement, the student was taken into custody and an unloaded gun was located.
Both incidents have opened the eyes of parents, students, school leaders and the community. According to Price City Police Captain Bill Barnes, communication between all law enforcement agencies and the schools played a critical role in the outcome of both events.
Carbon School District Superintendent Steve Carlsen agreed. “As we have seen with the two most recent events, the plans that we have in place and how situations such as these are handled, worked out according to plan,” he explained. “We look at worse case scenarios and prepare accordingly. Following these events, we have started to reevaluate our plans and make changes where necessary to encompass various situations we may have never thought about.”
Both Barnes and Carlsen credited staff at each school for their quick and accurate response. “Staff at the schools responded well,” Barnes indicated. “A major asset to our schools is a resource officer.”
According to Barnes, resource officer Ken Labrum and the presence of other officers such as DARE instructors have built strong relationships between law enforcement and students.
“Having officers at the schools regularly has reduced the number of incidents because children will alert them of serious situations,” he stated. “We feel good about what’s in place, but it could always be better and we constantly look into ways of improving.”
Looking back on the Mont Harmon situation, Carlsen explained that a strong relationship between students and staff lead to the positive outcome. He explained that the student with the gun told friends about the weapon just moments before police were called. “Within minutes of finding out about the gun, the kids told the principal who notified police,” he said. “Because these kids reported it right away, no one was hurt, but it could have been a different story if they didn’t tell.”
Building a positive relationship between educators and students is a high priority in the Carbon district. Carlsen feels that students who are comfortable with their teachers are more likely to report situations similar to this one than students who do not.
Coordination between educators and law enforcement is also imperative in order to keep students safe. The recent incidents have both sides looking at ways of bettering response time and of course, safety during any given event. “We take it very seriously,” Carlsen assured. “Everyone reacted as they should have at Mont Harmon and Castle Heights in order to protect the kids. But we have also been looking at how we can improve.”
Currently, the district is reassessing disaster planning and preparedness throughout the schools. Drills have been performed at several facilities and all other schools will complete drills soon. Along with practice exercises, the district is also looking into ways of handling matters that have not been discussed previously.
Because of the Castle Heights incident, Carlsen explained that district officials are evaluating each school and determining ways of restricting car access on school grounds.
“This might mean placing large boulders around our playgrounds or something else, but we are determining ways of restricting access by car to each school building,” he explained. “Our teachers and students handled that situation well, but if we can avoid a similar situation from even happening, then we will do everything in our power to prevent it.”
Despite drills, training and planning, emergency situations may occur. That is why law enforcement stays on top of tactical training. Rapid deployment is a tactic every law enforcement agency is prepared to use if a situation occurs at a local school.
Currently, if an incident happens at a Carbon school, every on-duty police officer from every agency will respond immediately. This is exactly what occurred during both the Mont Harmon and Castle Heights incidents. “We were thrilled with how both events went from a law enforcement stand point,” Barnes explained. “We did learn things that we will incorporate in order to get better. Once we get a call, our goal is to keep bad things to a minimal.”
If a situation escalates, additional officers and SWAT members will be called in immediately. The police captain explained that every law enforcement agency is prepared to do what it takes to keep children safe at school.
Superintendent Carlsen echoed that thought as he vowed to continue implementing safety measures and planning for emergency situations.