New security in place for new school year

Police notification system and School Resource Officer implemented in the wake of school shootings


Lars Lonnroth

The new BluePoint Notification System has been put in place over the summer. When activated, they put the school on lock down and notify the police.

Lars Lonnroth, Managing Editor of Breaking News and Multimedia Content

Over the summer, the LT administration took a series of steps to help bolster school security during a time where gun violence is increasingly discussed in schools across the nation.

“In all the unfortunate shootings that we have had in schools, the one thing that we’ve learned is that the quicker the response time by the police the fewer the casualties,” Assistant Principal Kris Costopoulos said. “We are blessed our police department is only half a mile away, but still, every second counts.”

In the wake of the high profile school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the administration has had to think about how to best prepare for the possibility of a school shooting in our community, Costopoulos said.

Those discussions have manifested themselves in two visible changes to the security of LT upon the start of this school year: the new school resource officer at NC and the Bluepoint Security System, blue devices in the style of the red pull-down fire alarms already in place at LT.

“Before we had Blue Point, our whole building would rely on a small number of people who had access to the PA system for something to happen,” LT Principal Brian Waterman said. “We want to make sure that when something happens, we can provide instant notification to everyone on campus that something is occurring.”

When activated, a pre-recorded PA announcement by Waterman places both LT campuses on lockdown while simultaneously notifying local law enforcement and community members.

While being a physical representation of the increased awareness of school shootings in America, the administration also considered whether the new measures would impact the positive nature of the LT environment, Waterman said.

“We’re always considering ‘does this keep our school safe, but at the same time does it take away from our welcoming environment and the positive culture we have here,’” Waterman said. “We feel this is a great upgrade in terms of our communication and notification, but we feel it doesn’t take away from our welcoming, positive culture we have here.”

But for some students, they think it does the opposite.

“When I see those [new police alarms] and I see the police walking around with guns, I go into a state of panic—a state of terror—every single time,” Molly Davies ‘20 said. “Every time I see one, I can feel my stomach just tense up. It is only making our environment more tense.”

Even Costopoulos said that seeing the new alarms, while a necessary addition to the school’s safety apparatus, is striking.

“The first time I saw them in the building and on the wall it was a little jarring,” Costopoulos said. “It is a visible reminder of where we are at in our society, but I know they are here to keep students safe.”

Costopoulos added: “Our school is going to be as safe as our students want it to be. If you want our school to be safe, we need our kids to step up and report things when they know they’re not right.”

Davies and Ella Finnegan ‘20 are the co-founders of the new LT Save Club, a pilot club at LT that seeks to create a positive school atmosphere while addressing the root causes of violence at schools.

While Davies finds the alarms and increased security disconcerting, Finnegan feels that the alarms are overall a positive addition.

“Our club’s goal is to get to the point where we don’t need those blue light systems, but I don’t think we can simply get rid of them,” Finnegan said.

While the school hired new security guards to replace staffers who left the position this year, there was no net increase to the number of guards employed by LT. However, the new NC School Resource Officer (SRO), Tim Andries, was assigned to LT—something the administration has wanted for years at NC. SC has had an SRO for over 20 years.

“The beauty of this being a full time position—while there have been some irresponsible choices made—I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with students,” Andries said. “If anyone has any kind of question, I am available and am here for them.”

In terms of the price of these measures, the school and the Village of LaGrange are splitting the cost of the SRO. The new Blue Point system is estimated by the district business office to cost $200,000, with an annual monitoring fee of $3,500.