Springfield Catholic to place security officers in all schools until the end of year to determine possible full-time use

Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 7:34 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 29, 2023 at 11:56 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - As of Friday, April 28 there had been 89 gun-related incidents at K-12 schools nationwide in 2023.

And just in the last two days, there have been fake threats at Springfield’s McGregor Elementary, Nixa High School, and the Buffalo and Dallas County Schools.

While many public schools now have their own school police that are employed by the district, Springfield’s private Catholic schools didn’t have any security officers until the start of this current school year when one officer and his K-9 companion were hired from Task9, a private firm, to work at the high school.

“When you look at school violence it seems to be more common on high school campuses,” explained Sister Cecilia Ann Rezac, the Director of Schools for Springfield Catholic. “And when we looked at our campuses the high school is the hardest building to lock down because students themselves are driving to-and-from school and there tends to be a lot more traffic. So we thought the highest need was at the high school.”

The experiment at the high school level has worked out well. Sister Cecilia explained that students and teachers have welcomed the extra security and become comfortable with them being around. In fact, on Friday as students enjoyed a fun-activity day at the football field with bounce houses and games going on, “Max” the security K-9 German Shepherd was the star of the show as students cheered as he ran down balls that they threw across the field for him to retrieve.

The joke is that more students know Max’s name than the human security officer’s name.

“Students might think they can fool a person about something but they’re not gonna fool a dog,” Sister Cecilia said with a smile. “The dogs can sense things, and they know what they’re looking for.”

Task9 provides security for five school organizations.

“We don’t have dogs at all of them, but we do have them available,” explained Tim Brenner, the co-owner of Task9. “We have 12 dogs, and they can search not only for narcotics but for guns and explosives.”

Brenner said that providing security for a school is different than doing it for a business.

“It’s a lot more heartfelt,” he answered. “Being a parent you want to make sure the children are protected. In today’s environment, it’s really scary for everyone.”

It is the scary times that have brought on increased concerns and earlier this month Catholic’s school board decided to add security officers at the three grade schools (pre-school through eighth grade) which are St. Agnes in the downtown area, Immaculate Conception just off Fremont Avenue and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton off Republic Road.

As of now the plan is only to have those additional officers in place until the end of the current school year.

“It’s not because there’s any new threat or issues with violence,” Sister Cecilia pointed out. “It’s more of a pilot program to help in our discussion about whether this will be a benefit to our schools in the long run.”

Sometime this summer the board will have those discussions and make the determination as to whether security officers will become a permanent fixture in Catholic school hallways.

The school system has also applied for several grants from the Department of Homeland Security that could be worth as much as $300,000 to help with several safety upgrades.

“The nice thing is not only would this grant pay for things like extra mirrors and security cameras,” Sister Cecilia said. “But it can also pay for personnel as in more security officers.”

Task9 also teaches classes in training teachers to handle active shooter situations. But going the extra step to actually arm teachers with weapons is something that many schools, including Catholic, are reticent to consider.

“Personally I would not want to do that,” Sister Cecilia said. “I think the more weapons you bring into a school the more chance there is of them getting used inappropriately.”

“It can be concerning because you might be putting a person in a situation where they’re really not mentally wanting to do that,” Brenner said. “You also have to realize there’s going to be a lot of post-traumatic stress for them after an event like that.”

And even the decision to finally have security officers to Catholic was an unwanted surrender to the changing times.

“God asks us to protect our children,” Sister Cecilia said. “And God gives us the means to protect our children. First of all it is always going to be prayer at the forefront. But then he does ask us to use what means are available. Sometimes it’s going to be the rules we set in school like no running with scissors. And sometimes it might call for more drastic measures like security officers in the building.”

“It’s not just the major cities,” Brenner said of the increasing school violence. “It’s not just Chicago and L.A. it’s the small towns and that’s really concerning especially when you realize it could happen anytime or anywhere.”

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