Due to threat, OHS evacuated on Friday, April 15. More threats have been made. Owatonna Law Enforcement has been involved in making decisions for safety procedures (Christian Kelling)
Due to threat, OHS evacuated on Friday, April 15. More threats have been made. Owatonna Law Enforcement has been involved in making decisions for safety procedures

Christian Kelling

New security measures at OHS

May 5, 2016

The Incident

CSO Travis Johnson watching the cameras at the security desk
Nathan Deason
CSO Travis Johnson watching the cameras at the security desk

OHS administrators have new security protocols being put in place starting Friday, May 6. On April 15, a bomb threat caused OHS to be evacuated. Since then, security has been on most students’ minds. However, the threats did not cease.

After additional threats were found, Principal Mark Randall commented on the new security measures being implemented by saying, “There have been several instances throughout the year, and it was a culmination of lots of different things that really happened.” Principal Randall went on to say, “There were also some writings on the bathroom walls that led us to make some decisions that we didn’t want to have to make, but we had to.” While student body push back is expected ,these changes are for the safety of the students.  

OHS had been operating normally since the April 15 threat, and no new measures had been implemented. While Randall states that it was a “culmination of lots of different things,” a threat found by a staff member recently forced his hand, putting these measures in place. The school has put out an official statement that will be addressed in classrooms on Friday, May 6. An email was sent to parents on Thursday evening with the same information.

The message states, ‘The high school will be destroyed on May 12.’ After consulting with law enforcement, and school personnel, we believe the school is safe and secure. However, disruptive actions like this require school personnel to take measures to ensure high levels of safety and security for our school”

— -Letter to Parents and Students

“A threatening message was found inside a restroom at OHS by a staff member. The message states, ‘The high school will be destroyed on May 12.’ After consulting with law enforcement and school personnel, we believe the school is safe and secure. However, disruptive actions like this require school personnel to take measures to ensure high levels of safety and security for our school. Disruptive actions to the educational process like this will not be tolerated at OHS. We ask that any student with information leading us to the person or persons responsible report this information immediately to school administration or law enforcement. Consequences for such behavior may lead to expulsion from school and to a criminal investigation by law enforcement.”

Implications

Recent events have caused changes for the student body and faculty.  Staff were informed at a mandatory meeting on Thursday.

Some changes being made at OHS include:

  • Any type of bag, hat or coat will be searched upon entry of the building, including purses
  • All bags, hats and coats must be stored in lockers
  • Students are allowed standard pencil pouches to take with them from class to class
  • Entrances to the school are limited to the Grove Avenue entrance and the School Street doors
  • Students with medical needs will be allowed to carry small bags if tagged and cleared by Anna Durst
  • Students will need to sign in and out when leaving class
  • Police presence will be larger
  • Surveillance will be increased

While several of these will prove to be inconveniences for both students and staff of OHS, safety is the number one priority on administrators’ minds. If necessary, accommodations will be granted. The letter states, “If a student has a concern that would warrant an accommodation, please have them check in with Anna Durst in the Nurse’s office.  All accommodations will need to be approved by administration.”

The first change will be students signing in and out to leave the classrooms. This will take effect on Friday morning after an official statement.

Principal Mark Randall handles curriculum and management at OHS
Principal Mark Randall has communicated to parents and staff the new policies that will begin on Friday, May 6 (Stock Photo Previously Used)

Many students are concerned with locker usage as most students rely on backpacks to go throughout OHS. Second hour teachers will have locker information for students. Students should check their lockers on Friday before the “bag policy” starts on Monday.

Additional supervision will be added to the building. Staff has been asked to be more visible and vigilant in the halls. Teachers have been assigned where to be at the beginning and the end of the day. Students that need to enter the building before 7:30 a.m. will need a teacher to escort them from the door to the classroom. That teacher will also conduct a bag search. For athletes coming in for an early morning practice, their coaches will conduct the search. The bag searches will be conducted by school personnel and members of the local law enforcement will step in if necessary. These searches will only be conducted during school hours. Extra security will not be extended into after school activities or events.

 

Superintendent+Grant+and+Director+of+Operations+Tom+Sager+both+helped+with+bag+checks+on+Monday%2C+May+9+

Katie Skalicky

Superintendent Grant and Director of Operations Tom Sager both helped with bag checks on Monday, May 9

Monday’s student reaction

On Monday, May 9, the Owatonna High School started their bomb threat procedure. To follow protocol, the students proceeded through the gym and main door entrances. Upon entering the high school, students’ bags were searched by administration. After the bag was approved, the students were sent to their locker to store their items as the school day went on. All for the safety of the students at OHS. However, there are some students that would disagree.

One twitter post regarding bag checks prior to Monday's security
One twitter post regarding bag checks prior to Monday’s security

Before bag searches, students started taking their frustration to Twitter and other social media websites on Thursday before the formal announcement was made. This prompted a release of the instant alert to families around 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 5. Some tweets by students included trendy hashtags like #fannypackfever and images of backpacks with #RIP. Even this morning, students were showing frustration after the backpack checks. Sophomore Sarah Spears said, “I don’t mind the search, but I don’t think that we need to put our backpacks in our lockers after they’ve already been searched.” Also, within the past two weeks, Owatonna High School has been featured multiple times on the popular Twitter user Minnesota High School Confession.

Different opinion on bag searches
Different opinion on bag searches

However, there has been a lot of support from students and staff towards administration and what they’ve done to keep the school safe. On Twitter, there were a rare handful of tweets showing support towards administration, along with more hashtags including #keepussafe. Senior Grace Thurnau said, “I thought the backpack searches were necessary, even though it might be an inconvenience to some people.” Speculative tweets died down after Monday’s security measures.

Staff in the building have been asked to be more visible during the school day. Mr. Kevin Stelter also commented, “As teachers, our job right now is to be on hall and door duty to make sure everyone is kept safe.”

Freshman David Crawford puts belongings in locker. Staff secure doors to Harriet Street
Katie Skalicky
Freshman David Crawford puts belongings in locker. Staff secure doors to Harriet Street

 

OHS staff was assigned to watch hallways and entrances to the school while administration took care of backpack searches. Along with help from staff and administration, there is an increase in visible security including a larger presence of patrol officers in the building. Assistant Principal Mr. Jeff Miller said, “This morning everything went okay. We now understand that there needs to be more help with checking to make it faster, and maybe even an express line for the students that are only bringing books in. Overall, the students had a good attitude about the situation this morning.” Extra security precautions will continue until an end date is given.

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