By Sam Jack
Haysville Public Schools has crisis plans in place so that people know what to do if menaced by a violent intruder.
According to district director of operations B.J. Knudson, each building in the district has its own handbook, which is updated yearly. The handbooks cover not only violent incidents but what to do in case of severe weather or other emergency scenarios.
“It deals with a whole realm, because we don’t know what (sort of emergency) we’re actually going to get,” Knudson said. “They basically list the people in their building who they feel will best handle crisis situations, and they each have roles.
“The plans have check lists, and we have ‘go bags’ we can grab in the event of a crisis. We have in these when to call 911, how you activate the crisis response team, who you call and notify.”
When Knudson first started working on the crisis plans, they called for a coded PA announcement if an intruder entered a building.
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See related story: School threat unsettled Eisenhower High School in Goddard
“It was like, ‘Mrs. So-and-so drives a pink Cadillac.’ That meant there was somebody in the building who wasn’t supposed to be,” he said. “But now we’ve gone back to just plain language: ‘Lockdown; there’s an intruder in the building. They’re in this part of the building.’ ”
“Campus High School, for instance, is huge. If the threat is on the west side of Campus, we would say, go ahead and get out if you’re on the east side. In the vicinity of where the crisis is, hide, and last resort, if you have to – fight. It’s a ‘run, hide, fight’ stance we’ve taken,” Knudson said.
The school district leaves decisions about intruder drills and lockdown drills to school principals. Some have held drills, Knudson said, while others simply discuss emergency plans with students.
School principals, counselors, administrators and representatives of outside agencies like the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and Sedgwick County Emergency Management attend monthly meetings to discuss crisis planning.
“We talk about what’s happened in the school district, what’s going on in the community,” Knudson said. “We do what’s called table talk drills, where you talk through a scenario and what you would do. Some of the building (principals) then go back and do some of those talks on inservice days.”
Each school has designated secondary locations where students and staff can gather in the event a building has to be evacuated, along with reunification points and even planned staging areas for media. Knudson hopes those plans will never be put into full practice.
“We’ve had a couple tornadoes go through Haysville, and our (most likely) crisis is still weather-related issues. But we feel we’ve taken the steps to become prepared for anything,” he said.
School resource officers investigate, respond to threats
The Haysville Police Department employs three school resource officers (SROs) that work in and with the public schools. They are Justin Jacks at Campus High School, Justin Hehnke at Haysville High School and Tri-City Day School, and Dana Burns at Haysville Middle School and Haysville West Middle School.
The main reason to have officers stationed at schools is to build rapport and serve as role models, according to Haysville Police Chief Jeff Whitfield.
“They get to know the kids better and provide that outlet between law enforcement and kids that wouldn’t normally be there,” Whitfield said.
That rapport allows the SROs to help sort out truth and rumor when concerns about threats emerge.
“A lot of times, it’s just rumors that float around and blow themselves up,” Whitfield said. “We always try to find the kid that the rumor is about, if it’s a specific kid or even adult, talk to them and decide if they said something, or if somebody overheard it wrong. Any time you have something like the event in Parkland, Florida, you have kids that will talk about it, and if somebody else overhears, that could really quickly get turned into something it’s not.”
That said, students have been making unfounded threats against Haysville schools since Whitfield started working here in the mid-1990s.
“Before you had Columbine, kids called in bomb threats and things like that. Over the years, the mechanism of what they’re threatening has changed: ‘I’m going to shoot up the school,’ as opposed to somebody generically calling in a bomb threat,” Whitfield said. “A lot of the technology has changed so it’s easier to track somebody down if they make a threat over the phone. The mechanism has changed to being on social media now. You say something there and it can get blown out of proportion really fast.”
Investigations and risk assessments follow every threat or reported threat.
“Those kinds of threats are taken a lot more seriously now than they used to be,” Whitfield said.