ELDRIDGE — North Scott Community School District officials continue to look at the district’s safety and crisis management plans nearly two months after a 12-year-old boy walked into the junior high school with a loaded gun and tried to shoot a teacher.
And, they are pushing a simple message: If you see something, say something.
Superintendent Joe Stutting said safety is “all of our concern, our issue and our responsibility.”
The district has long had a safety committee that typically meets quarterly, Stutting said. It will meet more frequently, he said, not only because of the Aug. 31 incident, but because districts in Iowa are required to complete a crisis management plan for the district and each building.
“We have a very good plan and have some updating to do,” he said. “The plan probably is 90 percent already there but it requires more work and working with the state and working with Scott County Emergency Management and that kind of thing.”
The district also created a subcommittee to look more closely at the incident.
Concentrating on school environments, also is a crucial part of school safety, Stutting said.
“We’ve always valued that atmosphere where kids feel connected to our school,” Stutting said. “
Each year, students in K-12 are given a survey that asks if they have at least one adult in the district they connect with. Ninety-eight percent of those most recently surveyed answered “yes,” Stutting said.
“The number one defense against anything like this is the environment that you create. There’s no one thing that we could put into place that would ever say there’s an absolute 100 percent guarantee that something would not happen in a school, in a school building, in a school district.”
Students are being taught the difference between “tattling” and reporting something suspicious to “make sure that we all understand that safety is all our concern, our issue and our responsibility," he said.
Schools began using the mobile app, P3 Campus, Stutting said, which lets users submit tips anonymously via cell phone or online.
Stutting said the district also is reviewing how they can better help students, like those first entering the junior high school as seventh-graders, transition and develop trusting relationships sooner.
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“Our gut would tell us if this was six months later that we may have some warning signs that may have come forward, just because the relationship had been better established,” he said. “In the first seven days (of the school year), the teachers hardly know the students and the students don’t know each other except for the ones they went to school with for the first six years.”
Court documents allege the boy, armed with a loaded black Smith & Wesson .22-caliber gun, walked into a classroom at 8:38 a.m. Aug. 31 and ordered everyone to the ground, according to court documents. He pointed the gun in the teacher's face and pulled the trigger, but forgot to take the safety off. The teacher got the gun away from him and it was secured by law enforcement.
He remained in custody Tuesday.
Scott County prosecutors are seeking to try the boy as a youthful offender. If granted, the boy would be tried in adult court and, if convicted, would be sentenced in and remain under the supervision of the juvenile court until just before his 18th birthday.
The case then would return to adult court, where a judge could dismiss it or sentence the boy to prison, among other sentencing options.
A hearing on the motion will be held Nov. 15.
Stutting said in the days following the incident, the district focused on taking care of students and staff and providing counseling and extra support at the junior high school. There also was extra presence of police officers, particularly at the junior high.
Within the past year, mass-school shootings in Florida and Texas have prompted state lawmakers around the country to introduce gun-control legislation, additional resources for armed police officers in schools and security-related building upgrades.
Two years ago, Homeland Security audited the North Scott district and issued a report with recommendations to improve school safety.
One recommendation, which was completed last summer, was to label doors so emergency personnel can be directed to a specific area in the event of an incident.
Stutting said the district’s safety committee is continuing to look at a list of suggested safety measures, such as adding metal detectors in every building and more school resource officers.
“We’d love to live in a day and time where you didn’t think about locking doors and buzzing people in and cameras and SROs in ever building, but the reality is, the environment is what it is today and even in a small community in Iowa, you can have a gun brought into school," he said. "I think that’s probably the lesson our area has learned — anything can happen anywhere.”