After stabbing, fire and fight, East Aurora looks at security measures for high school
East Aurora School District 131 officials are looking to add new security cameras and upgrade existing devices at East Aurora High School.
The security discussion comes at a time when five high school students and two adults were arrested within about two weeks for a stabbing, a fire and a fight that district officials said were unrelated. Beatrice Reyes Childress, assistant superintendent for educational services, said the discussion about cameras was an "ongoing topic" and was not reignited by the recent incidents. The cameras are mainly designed to increase visibility in the building of about 3,800 students, she said.
"In a building this large, having the cameras and having visibility is important because it also helps us identify areas that we may need some support in," she said. "At any given time, you can shift your staff, your resources around to make sure that our areas in the building are covered and safe."
In total, the district is looking to add about 18 cameras to the school in several locations, including some that focus on doors into and out of the building, and updating the existing 56 cameras, Childress recently told the school board. In later phases, which could come in future years, the district plans to focus on a new portion of the high school that has not yet been built and other parts of the building, and work on the district's middle schools and elementary schools.
The first portion of the project – the roughly 18 new cameras and upgrades – could be complete by Jan. 30. Childress declined to give an estimated cost for that portion of the project because the district was still collecting quotes, but she said the district is estimating it will come in under budget.
Childress said the topic has come into focus now largely because of administrative changes and the hiring of a chief information and chief technology officer who has expertise in the area.
"Administratively, we all agree that there is a need," she said.
In the weeks before the camera plan was presented to the school board, two East Aurora students were stabbed and injured during a fight across from the school, and two other students were later charged with attempted murder.
About two weeks later, a trash can fire described as "suspicious" burned in a school bathroom and a student was later charged with damaging state-supported property. The same day the fire occurred, a fight involving two students, a dean, a school resource officer and two other adults left the dean and the officer injured. The two students and two other adults were charged with aggravated battery and mob action.
After the stabbing, Melinda Thomas, a teacher and union representative at East Aurora High School, told the school board during a meeting that cameras have been a concern for years, and the lack of cameras might prevent faculty from knowing when students leave without permission or when kids let people into the building. She said the students involved in the fight and stabbing left school early.