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DL rethinks school safety after tragedy

As Detroit Lakes high school students had a moment of silence Monday morning for the lives lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings Friday, a grim reminder of the chilliest possibilities was cast upon not just the students, but the faculty charged with keeping them safe.

"It's your worst nightmare as an administrator and as a parent," said Detroit Lakes Superintendent Doug Froke, "It's so devastating you can't even frame it up into words."

But Froke and other school leaders will try, as he says school security will be on the agenda for future meetings within the school district.

"We want to take a look at everything that happened there (at Sandy Hook) and then review our protocols to see if anything should be changed," said Froke, who says he believes in light of the tragic shooting that took 26 lives, including 20 young students, he wants policies and procedures within the Detroit Lakes School District tightened up and standardized.

"Unfortunately right now some things vary from school to school," said Froke, who says there isn't currently a certain time for school doors to be locked.

"And I think we need to take a closer look at who is coming in and out of our schools," he added, saying there is system that requires visitors to sign in, but hopes to see a stricter enforcement of that.

"I think we need to ask more questions of the people coming into our buildings who we don't know or we might be unsure of," said Froke, "because unfortunately this shooting is a reminder that we don't live in a perfect world and things can happen."

Convenience, Froke says, needs to take a back seat to the safety of the 2,850 students and 500 staff that roam the hallways of the four Detroit Lakes schools.

If parents have to end up walking a longer distance to get into the front entrance of a school, he says that's just the way it has to be.

And he says given the fact that Detroit Lakes is at a critical planning point for a proposed new school and projects at the high school, he believes now is the time to think long and hard about security issues.

"Now is the time where we can do things differently," said Froke, "and so maybe we should have a deeper conversation on things like construction and alternative entrances ... maybe it needs to be part of our capitol planning as we move forward into the summer months."

In the meantime, the schools will continue their regular practice drills in the event of an unwanted person in school buildings, going through what teachers and students should do for both a code yellow and a code red.

A "code yellow" means there is a possible threat within the premises and school administrators still have control of the building. A "code red" is far more serious and has elevated to a situation where law enforcement has deemed it necessary to take over the building.

The Detroit Lakes Police Department works closely with school leaders to map out plans for such an event, but what they won't do is talk about those plans of action in any detail.

"We would never want to get into specifics about that because we don't want to tell a potential perpetrator what we do," said Froke. "Because it's hard enough ... out of those 2,850 students, each one of them has a story."