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Education

Security top concern in new school year

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The start of a new school year has schools superintendents across the region paying extra attention to security procedures.
It's a parent's, a teacher's, a school administrator's worst fear -- gun violence inside what is supposed to be a safe and secure space.

If there's a lesson from last February's mass shooting in the Parkland, FL school district, it's that a shooting can happen anywhere, at any time - and schools need to be prepared.

And they are preparing.

Long gone are the days when someone can walk freely through an unlocked door. West Seneca Schools Superintendent Matthew Bystrak said they're making a number of safety enhancements.

"You know, hardening entraceways, changing locks on classroom doors, looking at some more secure glass in key areas of the school," Bystrak said.

He said the district is also adding security cameras and there are mandated lockdown drills - and the West Seneca Police Department is closely involved.

"We have an amazing working relationship with our police department. Anytime that we become aware of anything that's at all concerning, the police chief is a cellphone call away," he said. "They've been training staff and groups of staff, training people on some strategies and having some real life conversations about some things that you can do in the event there is some sort of a dangerous situation within a school."

Besides enhanced security, Bystrak said a new mental health curriculum the state is requiring of local districts will help. By focusing on mental wellness, he said the new curriculum will hopefully provide troubled students with coping skills before lashing out violently.

"What we ended up doing was basically pulling together a committee comprised of our health teachers, we've got counselors, social workers, psychologists and administrators that work together to be able to develop a comprehensive curriculum that's really going to span all of our grade levels," Bystrak said.

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