Battling School Safety Threats

The safety of Rockwood schools becomes a concern after recent threats within the district and shooting at a St. Louis high school

In St. Louis, school safety is a more prevalent concern than ever. On Oct. 24, two people were killed in a school shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis.


School Resource Officer (SRO) Derek Ploeger saw direct impacts of the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School school shooting.


“One of my fellow officers that I’ve worked with now for the last four years, his mom was the teacher that lost her life in that situation,” Ploeger said. “I feel for their family, and I feel for the student that lost her life, it’s just a senseless act of violence and we have to do better.”


In the Rockwood School District, Marquette High School was subject to a bomb threat on Nov. 17, followed by a gun threat on Nov. 18, resulting in the school being evacuated.


“It’s unfortunate,” Rockwood Safety Supervisor, Ty Dennis, said of the situation. “Every threat is taken seriously and it’s unfortunate that someone felt the need to call it a hoax because it prompted so much response from law enforcement and created anxiety amongst our staff and students.”


Dennis noted that the safety concerns in Rockwood are visible in schools nationwide.


“At the end of the day, we are a public school entity. And I think the same thing that we’re facing every school in America is facing,” Dennis said.


According to Dennis, safety is Rockwood’s number one priority.


“Making students, making staff, making everyone feel safe has been a priority long before any incidents have happened. Every week we’re meeting about safety,” Dennis said.


When the intruder alarm sounds, SRO’s immediately notify their dispatcher of the intruder.


“The average time for a police response, once the call has been put in for Eureka, is about 3-5 minutes before we would have a very heavy police presence from our officers here,” Ploeger said.


“Myself as well as the entire administration team are going to do everything we can to locate that person as soon as possible.”


Most days, when there isn’t a school safety threat, Ploeger is ensuring that all doors leading to outside are locked.


“I’ll also go on the exterior and check those doors as well. I usually do that about 2-3 times a day,” Ploeger said. “Staying out in the hallways and being visible is a really big thing.”


Despite Rockwood’s efforts to ensure safety among their schools, many students across the district still don’t feel safe at school.


“A lot of times a lot of our students may not feel safe at school in the sense that they don’t feel safe anywhere when it comes to the act of shooting incidents,” Dennis said. “It can happen at the mall, it can happen at church, it can happen anywhere.”


Ploeger argued that a lot of the increased concern over school safety is due to cell phones.


“Nobody really talks face-to-face anymore and everything is done through text messages or social media, so it really does have an influence on it,” Ploeger said. “Every time something happens in a school, immediately students bring their phones out and start recording, and when kids see what happened [at Marquette] where they ended up leaving for the day, unfortunately they look at that as an opportunity to get another free afternoon off.”


Ploeger stressed the importance of students and staff’s vigilance in preventing these situations.


“Keep an eye out, and if you see something or hear something, say something to a teacher or say something to an administrator, or say something to me. That’s how we keep on top of these things,” Ploeger said.