‘We know when students feel safe, they have an ease of learning’: School safety | #schoolsaftey

WILLIAMSVILLE, NY (WKBW) — School safety is a major concern for families, but a new state law could provide guidance on making a safer environment.

The Safe Schools by Design Act was signed by Governor Kathy Hochul this week.

It will require all school districts to create construction or renovation plans with the safest, most secure features.


School visitor program in place in Williamsville School District.

7 News Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley talked with some area school superintendents about the safety of their school buildings.

“Because we know when students feel safe, they have an ease of learning when families feel safe, they have a sense of security,” remarked Darren Brown-Hall, superintendent, Williamsville Central School District.



The Williamsville School District has set up the Raptor system.

I wanted to learn more about how schools continue working toward creating safer school buildings, so I met with Williamsville Superintendent Brown-Hall as they implemented the Raptor Visitor Management System.

“So, when someone comes to visit, they must have a government-issued ID card. It’s put through the Raptor system. The databases are checked to see if this person can be in our schools and around children and around our students,” explained Brown-Hall.

You must wait in the vestibule, with no access inside the actual school until you are approved.



Darren Brown-Hall, superintendent, Williamsville Central School District shows new safety system.

“But before you have access to all of our students and our faculty, you’re going to go through a vetting process,” Brown-Hall described.

Superintendent Brown-Hall tells me the governor’s Safe Schools by Design Act, which calls on districts to include safety measures in their five-year capital facilities plan. is not just to add metal detectors and bars on windows.



Williamsville School District.

“We don’t want our schools to feel like prisons, but there are other things you can do in the design of new capital projects that will enhance the safety of your building,” Brown-Hall noted. “What can we put in place to ensure the safety of our schools.”

“We are taking a continuous, scaffolded approach to improving school security,” stated Mark Laurie, superintendent, Niagara Falls City School District.

Niagara Falls City Superintendent Laurrie tells me Safe Schools by Design Act “welcomed” news.



Mark Laurie, superintendent, Niagara Falls City School District, explains school safety measures.

Laurrie says his district is already doing everything it can to keep students safe.

“And we’ve got nuisance alarms being placed on all of the 224 non-entry doors. If they were to be propped open an alarm would sound, a camera would pull towards it and we would be able to attend to it within 20 seconds,” Laurrie described.

The Niagara Falls District already added weapon detection and the Raptor Visitor system.

Laurrie said his district has also used its architect to “discover and determine any weakness” they may have in their buildings and are working to remediate.



Weapons detection machine inside the entrance at Niagara Falls High School.

“We do have plans for our vestibules,” Laurrie said.

Friday Laurrie said his district held a full-blown active shooter drill at the Niagara Falls High School that included eight law enforcement members as well as first responders.

“It was chilling and sad that we have to do it, but absolutely the responsible way to go,” reflected Laurrie. “Any lessons learned for yourself as a leader of the district?” Buckley asked. “Communication is paramount. We worked on really good radio communication,” responded Laurrie.

But both Laurrie and Brown-Hall say the new law to improve school safety must be vetted as they wait for guidance from the state education department.



School safety detection at Niagara Falls High School.

“The devil will be in the details. These measures cost money and these measures in certain areas are reimbursable by the state, but there are other areas deemed not to be reimbursable,” remarked Laurrie.

“We’ll definitely dissect that guidance and figure out what’s doable. What may not be so doable,” replied Brown-Hall.

The superintendent tells me state aid is helping districts pay for this new visitor system. The Williamsville District officially begins using the new visitor system on Monday.

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