By Holly Stillman
Cougar News Blog
Cactus Canyon Junior High is one of the schools in Apache Junction Unified School District. CCJH, four other schools, and two administration buildings will be receiving panic buttons later this year. School board members unanimously voted Aug. 6 to move forward in the installation of panic buttons.
After the incident in Connecticut last December and recently in Georgia, the school board believes this is the best way for staff to contact help in drastic situations.
“I definitely believe it is the right thing to do,” said AJUSD public relations director Brian Killgore. “After what happened last December in Connecticut, (recently) in Georgia, and many other incidents over the years, as a school administrator – and a father – I do feel better knowing there is another option for summoning help if an emergency situation occurs.”
Staff members will be trained on how to determine when it’s appropriate to use the panic buttons and how to use them.
“We will train the staff to determine what constitutes a situation that would warrant the panic button,” Killgore said. “Staff is responsible for the students and we want them to make that determination.”
Board members would like to highlight the fact that although panic buttons have received much attention that this is not the only step to the student safety plan.
“The panic buttons have received a lot of attention they will only work when added to the most important components of the school safety plan,” said board member Mike Weaves. “Those include training of staff, drills, an awareness of who is supposed to be on campus and who should not be there, good communication regarding possible risks, and threats by students, staff and parents.”
Panic buttons were not the only idea considered. There also may be changes to the security in the offices in the schools and more detailed procedures to go through upon entering the campus.
“After discussing several options, it was determined the panic buttons was the most efficient, cost-effective, short-term solution,” said Killgore. “We are looking at re-configuring the front offices at schools to increase security, as well as finding a way to bring student resource officers back to AJUSD, but that will be farther down the road as our budget allows.”
The board plans to finish installing the panic buttons in late September. There hasn’t been a specified area where the buttons will be placed yet.
“We would like everyone to know even without the panic buttons, we have great confidence in our emergency response plan and the abilities of our teachers and staff to handle an emergency situation,” Killgore said. “Families place a great deal of trust in us with their children and we firmly believe we have the tools in place to keep them safe while on our campuses.”