(l to r) Lorain Schools’ Director of Safety and Security Reuben Figueroa, Superintendent Jeff Graham, and President of National School Safety and Security Services, Ken Trump, walk through the halls while participating in a Level 3 Lockdown drill at Toni Morrison Elementary School on Thursday, May 4, 2023.
MAY 5, 2023 – An expert in school safety and security conducted a districtwide assessment of Lorain City Schools this week, offering district leaders reassuring words about district policies and procedures that put the health, safety, and well-being of students and staff as the top priority.
President of National School Safety and Security Services, Ken Trump, said he was impressed with Lorain Schools’ approach of prioritizing relationship building between adults and students while implementing policies and procedures that prepare a multi-disciplined team to act in the event of an emergency. Trump also praised the district's practice of pressure testing its Level 3 Lockdown protocols in every school twice a year.
The Cleveland-based consulting firm specializes in school security and emergency preparedness training, school security assessments, emergency planning consultations, and crisis school safety communications. The Lorain Board of Education unanimously voted earlier this school year to have an assessment completed as part of a $100,000 school safety initiative to strengthen existing safety measures across the district.
“It takes leadership courage for a district’s superintendent, school board, and director of safety to all be on one page and say, ‘Tell us what we are doing right and what we can improve on,’” Trump said. “That kind of openness is refreshing because it's not about having an agenda, but to proactively look at school safety and security comprehensively by a neutral third party.”
Lorain Schools’ Director of Safety and Security, Reuben Figueroa reassures students Thursday following a safety drill at Toni Morrison Elementary School
Lorain Schools’ Director of Safety and Security, Reuben Figueroa, said he welcomed the assessment to ensure the Safety and Security Department is on the cutting edge of identifying and implementing safety policies in a post-COVID time that has seen the needs of students multiply in many ways. The assessment also aligns with the district’s strategic plan as increased layers of security are being implemented to match how the district continues integrating more wraparound services for students.
“We believe in a more holistic approach to how we care for students, and that includes balancing how we address student safety, wellness, and overall well-being,” Figueroa said. “We want everything we do to be on par with national best practices.”
This week, Trump interviewed district leaders and key employees identified in crisis protocols, evaluated safety plans and board policies related to school safety, toured each building, and participated in a Level 3 Lockdown drill at Toni Morrison Elementary School on Thursday.
Lorain Schools’ Operations, Technology, Communications, and Safety departments coordinated the drill with the Lorain Police Department. The drill simulated a crisis while staff evaluated safety policies, procedures, and protocols. During the one-hour drill, students heard audible sounds describing an intruder in the building, and teachers simulated ways to barricade or hide in their classrooms or evacuate the building. Pressure tests are scheduled for each building before the end of the school year.
“I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere in the country,” Trump said following the drill. “From the level of detail from the beginning, with everyone stating their roles and what they were doing to the diverse team brought together, these drills are not happening like this in other school districts. It was well-designed and well-executed from start to finish.”
Trump said the drill took a critical look at school safety but was also sensitive to students’ fears and anxieties. In addition, staff immediately debriefed following the drill to identify problems to address that could matter in a real emergency.
Director Figueroa said he restructured the way Lorain Schools conducts its safety drills because it was imperative that such exercises were not just seen through the eyes of law enforcement officers from a tactical standpoint.
“To properly identify shortcomings, you have to create a situation where everyone knows we prioritize the safety of every building and we are open to hearing suggestions to improve,” said Figueroa, an officer with the Lorain Police Department. “Our teachers are amazing. They are with our students daily and have valuable insight into what works.”
The biannual drills are just one aspect of Lorain Schools’ safety approach, said Figueroa, who said he prefers the Swiss cheese model of layering systems to catch things that may fall through the holes.
“We are constantly evolving and adding additional layers and variations,” Figueroa said.
Trump, who will provide the district with a written report following the assessment, said Lorain Schools rightfully puts its focus on ensuring students have a trusted adult in every building and employs several student support structures by having school counselors, social workers, behavioral coaches, and wellness coaches, in addition to Figueroa, two safety coordinators, three school resource officers from the Lorain Police Department, and safety compliance officers.
“Security is about relationship building,” Trump said. “I like to say it’s a balance between hardware and ‘heartware’.”