Sioux Falls schools, police talk keeping kids safe in wake of latest school shooting

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - The Sioux Falls School District and its resource officers say they are constantly implementing new plans to keep students safe at school.

Their main plan is called "Hide, Run, Defend," but they focus mostly on the "hide" portion of things with students.

"It's still one of our beliefs that one of the best policies is still to shelter in place as best you can," said Ofc. Robert Draeger, of the Sioux Falls Police Department.

Draeger is a School Resource Officer at Lincoln High School in Sioux Falls. Even though he's not just there to prevent or assist during active shooting events, or other emergencies, it's an added bonus to have two officers on campus when school is in session.

Sioux Falls Schools Risk Manager Bob Bray said the district is lucky to have about 15 SROs on duty throughout the district each day.

Police and the district won't release specific information about their lockdown, evacuations and shelter in place procedures -- that's to keep kids safe -- but safe they're constantly evolving. The district meets with several law enforcement agencies throughout the year, as well as other school districts and emergency management teams to develop the best plan of action.

"Be assured that we are doing everything we can within our resources and capability to ensure that safety and security," Bray said.

One procedure that hasn't changed and isn't going anywhere is the lockdown procedure. Draeger said kids in all of the schools within city limits -- including private schools -- are taught the same lockdown drills -- specific to their school -- as soon as they get to elementary school.

He said you have to have a plan -- and everyone should have one, whether you're a student, or a working professional.

"A student could think, 'OK, if something like this happened what would I do? If I'm in this class what would I do? If I'm in this class, I would do this.'" Draeger said. "If they have somewhere stored back in their brain a plan, doesn't matter if it's the perfect plan -- having that stored back there is better than sitting there with no idea what to do."

But oftentimes, it's students or former students who are there to harm others.

"Current students or former students would know these procedures however they're in place they're meant to slow them down," Draeger said. "Even if you know what's going on -- breaching one of these doors is next to impossible. They're very sturdy."

Draeger said if you want to focus on the run and defend portion of things ... you should be smart. He said all efforts are made to ensure no student is stranded in a hallway -- but if you are in an active shooter situation -- you should run away from where ever the action is, stay quiet and try to hide.

In defending yourself, he said you may not realize the weapons you've got -- textbooks, hot coffee, staplers -- most anything can distract someone who's trying to hurt you.

Draeger and Bray explained that while the lockdown, shelter in place and evacuation drills are strict -- they also empower the teachers and staff to make the best decisions they can to keep kids safe.

"Obviously, if you're outside at recess and there's an active shooter inside the school, that teacher isn't going to want to take their kids back in," Draeger said.

The district has dozens of safety measures already in place -- from buzzer systems, to cameras and other ways to keep kids from every being in harm's way -- but you may never know the full extent of what they're doing -- and that's intentional. It makes it harder for those who want to harm others to know what they're up against.

"We don't always talk about everything we're doing because we don't want everybody to know what we're doing," Bray said.

And while having a plan is incredibly important, Draeger and Bray both said, the other most important thing they drill into students and staff ... "if you see something, say something."

"Come tell us. If we can take care of this stuff beforehand hopefully stop this before an action and not just a plan ... we would prevent things like this," Draeger said.

The Sioux Falls School District is implementing a new safety plan at this time where all school visitors will not only need to sign in, but they'll need to turn over their driver's licenses to be scanned through 10 different databases before they'll be allowed entry to the school.

Bray said parents and visitors often get upset when they're stopped to sign in and asked for identification, but they shouldn't be.

"Be patient with us," Bray said. "We're trying to keep your kids safe."

The school district also has a plan online called "Safe and Secure Schools Information," for parents. A link to this plan is under "Related Links."