I-S schools tighten security
Anonymous threats lead to restrictions
By Holly Neumann
Due to recent threats, the Iola-Scandinavia School District has taken precautions to ensure students’ safety.
“Since the Jan. 19 incident, the building doors have remained locked with an exception of a window of time when students enter in the morning,” Principal Sara Anderson said. “The doors will remain locked for the remainder of the school year.”
In addition, students have had restricted access moving within the building.
“Students will stay in the commons area until 8 a.m. when staff supervision is available,” she said. “This will also continue for the remainder of the school year. They have not been able to use their merit privileges, commons privileges or pass privileges.”
According to Anderson, the decision to limit these privileges was based on conversations with members of the Iola Police Department and the Waupaca County Sherriff’s Department as a means to maintain building security and student safety.
“Given that we do not know who is responsible for the safety threat, we need to take these steps to try to reduce the chances of additional threats occurring,” she said.
For some parents, there is frustration with these changes, since the building was cleared by law enforcement. Many have taken to social media to complain about the situation.
“It’s hard to say which rules are currently being enforced and for how long,” said Lisa Shirek, who is the parent of a junior. “From what I have heard if you are not at school for a club meeting at 7:35 a.m. you will not be allowed to attend the meeting. I feel this also goes too far as some kids like my own do not drive and are bussed to school.”
She feels that the school has failed to directly communicate to the parents about what all the rules are.
“As it has been stated by many in law enforcement, ‘safety is not convenient,’” Anderson said. “Having the building cleared by law enforcement is the first step in making sure our students and staff are safe. Keeping it safe is a daily process.”
She understands that these measures may seem unnecessary from an outsider’s perspective.
“It can be difficult for those who are not engaged in the daily operations of a school to fully understand the extent of activity in our building,” she said.
At a recent basketball game, some students made a statement by wearing “jail attire” to the game.
“It’s like a prison,” said one 11th-grade student. “We cannot even go to the bathroom alone anymore.”
“I didn’t do it,” said another. “Why do we all have to be punished?”
Karen Knapstein, parent of a freshman, looks at it a little differently.
“I am relieved that they are now taking it seriously enough that they are now taking security measures,” she said. “I’m hoping that the administration is seeking help from those people or schools that have more experience with this sort of thing.”
She also believes that this is on everyone.
“We’re fortunate that our community is good at pulling together and getting things accomplished,” she said. “This is on all of us. We need to teach our kids at home and we need to watch out for each other. Educators can’t teach effectively, and students can’t learn in an environment that is not safe.”
“I’m glad the school took the threat seriously and came up with a solution,” added Dana Shufelt, who has two children in the district. “I know the students may be upset with some of the rules, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. As a parent I feel at ease with my kids being in school with new rules put in place.”
Anderson noted that they have already re-assessed some of their needs and procedures.
“Some of the merit privileges outside of the building have been reinstated as we have been able to get assistance with our door access,” she said. “Discussions are in place about our current pass policies and some adjustments that may be made to allow students some pass privileges while not opening the risk to new threats.”
Anderson said they are looking at how to provide students opportunities to study in the commons.
“We had not had direct supervision of these students in the past but feel that we need to provide supervision for their security and safety,” Anderson said.
Some students have have said they are unsure about being in the commons when people walk in the front doors.
“We want to make the commons a place where are students feel safe again,” Anderson said.
She went on to talk about the impact that this threat has had on the school.
“Anytime you have a threat to the safety of over 300 students and staff members, as well as to their families, it has a very large emotional impact. In this situation it is even more difficult as we do not know who the threat came from,” Anderson said. “Students cannot learn when they feel unsafe. Staff, who are already very busy making sure students are successful, have had to add more responsibilities to their daily routines. Everyone sits a little bit more on the edge of their chair questioning things they would not have questioned before the incident.”
Anderson said the person responsible for the threat should know that they have affected weeks, even months of education for the entire district.
“I feel both angry and saddened that one person can have this much of a negative impact,” she said.