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Security at Fillmore County Schools

By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, Dec 21st, 2012
Posted in All Education

The tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, December 14 resulting in twenty children and six Sandy Hook Elementary staff members dead has had a rippling effect across the United States, including Fillmore County. The recent sorrowful event in that community has with no doubt stirred concerns among students, their parents, community members, and school administrators and employees. In light of this unsettling situation, school districts are looking at their emergency plans and making sure they meet the priority of keeping children safe while they are receiving their educations. Each school district in Fillmore County has its own plan in case emergencies arise ranging from fire evacuations, tornado and severe weather sheltering, and more recently brought to our attention—lockdown procedures. All of these plans help the local districts of Fillmore County uphold the priority of keeping children safe.

Although crisis management policies and procedures among school districts vary slightly, all have the same goal of security for the children and employees who attend Fillmore County’s learning facilities. Minnesota state law requires a minimum of five lockdown drills every school year in addition to five fire drills and one school-wide tornado drill. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, lockdown procedures are used in “situations where harm may result to persons in the school building, such as a shooting, a hostage incident, an intruder, trespass, disturbance, or when determined to be necessary by the building administrator or his or her designee.”

As learning and education continue, school administrators try to reassure parents that their children are safe in the faculty’s care. Here is a look at what steps Fillmore County Schools have taken to assure safety.


The Chatfield School District has the advantage of a technology-based door locking system. The building can be completely locked down with the push of a button. Within the elementary at any sign of alarm, exterior doors are locked and interior doors at each wing of the building are locked. Chatfield Superintendent Ed Harris stated that he feels the district is as prepared as anyone can be as far as having secure facilities and trained staff members. Harris also mentioned that the Chatfield Police Department is also an advantage. The district has worked closely with law enforcement and the police department knows the buildings inside and out. The police department also has deeper knowledge of the community.

Fillmore Central

Superintendent Richard Keith of the Fillmore Central School District feels that the Fillmore Central school facilities are as safe as anywhere. Security measures are standard. Doors are locked, and entrances are only permitted through the school office. After the tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut, a couple of Fillmore Central’s school board members have been contacted with concerns. Policies have been reviewed, and the school district will continue to look at any concerns with security as a few changes are being considered.


Lanesboro, which has kindergarten through twelfth grade all within one building, also follows typical security procedures. Students are admitted into the building at the beginning of the day, and doors are locked when the school day begins. Entrance is only allowed through the front doors, and visitors are required by school policy to check in at the school office. Doors are monitored by staff members throughout the day, and lockdown drills are well-practiced.


Superintendent Michael Moriarty of Mabel-Canton assures parents that they have made Mabel-Canton Schools as safe as possible. The school controls its entrances and has plans in place in case of emergencies. The inside of the building has been mapped out with authorities for use in the event of an incident. Even the fire department has been able to familiarize itself with the building. In response to Newtown, Connecticut, the elementary principal and school counselor met with elementary students to clear any concerns. Superintendent Moriarty, in agreement with other superintendents and administrators, reminds the public that it is vital to keep school security a high priority.


The Rushford-Peterson district faces a few unique challenges. First, the structure of the high school comes with its complexities. Entrances are not close to the office, although administrators do limit which entrances are open throughout the day. The second challenge is that the elementary school is in a different town. However, the high school is fortunate enough to be in close proximity of the Rushford Police Department. Superintendent Chuck Ehler reports that there have been a number of concerns expressed through email and conversation from parents after the incident of December 14 in Connecticut. Like so many other schools across the nation, Ehler commented, “We’ll be taking these [concerns] to heart. We’ll be exploring different avenues to make our schools safer. We want to reassure parents that their children are safe, and that’s our top priority.”

Fillmore County

Law Enforcement

It’s important to mention the role that the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office plays in the security of our schools. Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen notes that in recent years, more attention has been put on school security after incidents like those that took in place Jonesboro, Arkansas or the Columbine Massacre. Jensen stated that his team is well trained in active shooter scenarios, and they’ve received training from offsite specialists. Another tool law enforcement uses is the data compiled from each of the school buildings. Jensen has access to layouts allowing him to be informed in an emergency situation. Fillmore County deputies are also involved with many of the school districts through programs such as D.A.R.E., so the officers are closely connected.

As the school year carries on, school administrators and all school employees pay close attention to the security and safety of the children they spend each day with. And in the days, weeks, and months ahead, the residents of Newtown, Connecticut, Fillmore County, and the rest of our country will continue to heal as we remember the legacy of bravery and courage left behind by the victims of this tragic event.

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