Dozens of Dane Co. schools non-compliant for student safety drill submissions

One local superintendent says this highlights a disconnect between the state and schools when it comes to keeping kids safe.
One local superintendent says this highlights a disconnect between the state and schools when it comes to keeping kids safe.
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 9:39 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2022 at 10:25 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - So far this year in America, there have been 27 elementary school shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The day headlines flooded televisions worldwide of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, NBC15 Investigates requested records from the Wisconsin Department of Justice to find out if all Dane County schools were up to date with school safety drills. According to the DOJ, as of July 13, 2022, 37 schools in Dane County were considered non-compliant when it came to planning, conducting and reporting their school violence drills to the state’s Office of School Safety.

NBC15 reached out to all 37 schools and learned this didn’t necessarily mean the drills weren’t being done. But it did illuminate a disconnect between schools and the state, and now both sides are taking steps to change that.

The Halderson case

Schools that did not submit violence drill reports

Click to open:

Schools: Cambridge Elementary School, Cambridge High School, Koshkonong Trails School, Nikolay Middle School

District response: Is it all of the drills required by the department of justice for the school district of Cambridge or completed this year. The gap is in the reporting. We had shifting roles in the district this year and so the report is lagging. If you check Board of Education meeting minutes you will note that we have publicly reported all of these required drills throughout the school year.

Sincerely,

Margaret Banker, Ed.D.

Schools: DeForest Area High School, DeForest Area Middle School, Eagle Point Elementary School, Windsor Elementary School, Yahara Elementary School

This district was interviewed for NBC15's story. See below for their explanation and information.

Schools: Marshall Early Learning Center, Marshall Elementary School, Marshall Middle School, Marshall High School

District statement: Thanks for reaching out to learn more about the great things happening in Marshall Public Schools.

Student/staff health and safety continue to be our highest priorities. Throughout the 2021-2022 school year, each of four building's staff and students participated in a school safety training and in school violence drill (dates are listed below). Officer Retalick led each training and drill.

Officer Retallick (SRO) and his team at the Marshall Police Department uses our schools for their department trainings, they complete threat assessments, and also meet with district leadership to discuss safety suggestions.

Let me know if I can help provide additional information.

Dan Grady

District Administrator

*I had forgotten to upload our safety information to the DOJ sharefile.....thank you for the important reminder.

Cottage Grove Elementary School, Glacial Drumlin School, Monona Grove High School, Monona Grove Liberal Arts Charter School for the 21st Century, Taylor Prairie School, Winnequah School

District statement: Monona Grove schools completed their state-required drills, and the School Board reviewed the reports on December 8, 2021, as mandated. The reports should have then been submitted to the DOJ’s Office of School Safety, but were not. This is a regrettable submission error. We’re confident that the recent hire of a safety and security coordinator will put stronger supports in place to prevent this kind of oversight from happening again.

Superintendent Dan Olson

Brooklyn Elementary School, Forest Edge Elementary School*, Netherwood Knoll Elementary School, Oregon High School, Oregon Middle School, Prairie View Elementary School, Rome Corners Intermediate School

July 20: We have completed all required drills. It sounds like there must have been a problem with our upload. We will look into this with the DOJ right away. -Director of Communications Erika Mundinger

Aug. 3: Everything has been uploaded. We aren't sure what happened during the initial transfer, but it is set now.- Director of Communications Erika Mundinger

*Forest Edge Elementary School opened in 2021

Schools: Utica Christian School, Madison Community Montessori School, Saint Peter Catholic School, Immaculate Heart of Mary Grade School, Three Angels Christian Schools, Martin Luther Christian School*, Saint Ann School, Peace Lutheran School, Sacred Hearts Grade School, Madison Country Day School, Saint John School

Diocese of Madison statement for its schools: Recently four of our schools contacted me regarding your inquiry into school violence drills. All diocesan schools completed their annual emergency and violence drills last year (2021-2022). However, three of our schools submitted their records after the given deadline. Another school had submitted its records on time, however they had been filed improperly in the system used by the Office of School Safety. My office has worked with these schools to assure that the Office of School Safety knows the drills were conducted as required. We will continue to work with all our schools so that the records are submitted prior to the stated deadlines. As the safety of our students and staff is a top priority, our schools regularly conduct fire, hazardous weather, emergency and violent event drills throughout the school year.

Sincerely,

Michael Lancaster

Superintendent of Catholic Schools

Diocese of Madison

*Martin Luther Christian School is believed to be permanently closed

“Safety is something that’s a huge focus, and it’s a top priority,” says DeForest’s new superintendent Doctor Rebecca Toetz.

Getting familiar with scales at summer band camp, students, staff and community partners in DeForest have to get comfortable with rehearsing violence drills, too.

“I was asked to be the superintendent starting July first. I feel very fortunate to be here,” says Toetz.

That transition highlighted a mix up in paperwork, a state set deadline missed by four schools in Toetz’ district.

“I think there’s a strong desire amongst schools across Wisconsin and nationwide to do the right thing when it comes to school safety,” says Trish Kilpin, the director of Wisconsin’s Office of School Safety.

Kilpin runs the office that was formed back in 2017. Through it, all Wisconsin schools are required to make an annual safety plan, practice it and submit drill summaries to the state for review.

“We’d like every school to be submitting this,” says Kilpin.

But data obtained by NBC15 Investigates shows that’s not the case.

Just last month, 37 different Dane County schools from nine districts were more than six months late in submitting their safety data. NBC15 reached out to all of them asking why:

The Cambridge School District had four schools considered non-compliant. Superintendent Margaret Banker explained why in an email.

Is it all of the drills required by the department of justice for the school district of Cambridge or completed this year. The gap is in the reporting. We had shifting roles in the district this year and so the report is lagging. If you check Board of Education meeting minutes you will note that we have publicly reported all of these required drills throughout the school year.

Sincerely,

Margaret Banker, Ed.D.

Over in the Oregon School District, seven of its schools had not submitted their violence drill data.

It sounds like there must have been a problem with our upload. We will look into this with the DOJ right away,”

writes Erika Mundinger, a district representative.

Marshall District Administrator emailed NBC15 saying the following on behalf of the four schools on the non-compliance list in his district.

Thanks for reaching out to learn more about the great things happening in Marshall Public Schools.

Student/staff health and safety continue to be our highest priorities. Throughout the 2021-2022 school year, each of four building's staff and students participated in a school safety training and in school violence drill (dates are listed below). Officer Retalick led each training and drill.

Officer Retallick (SRO) and his team at the Marshall Police Department uses our schools for their department trainings, they complete threat assessments, and also meet with district leadership to discuss safety suggestions.

Let me know if I can help provide additional information.

*I had forgotten to upload our safety information to the DOJ sharefile.....thank you for the important reminder.

Marshall District Administrator Dan Grady

Monona Grove School District had six schools that were late in uploading the data. Superintendent Dan Olson explained why in an email.

Monona Grove schools completed their state-required drills, and the School Board reviewed the reports on December 8, 2021, as mandated. The reports should have then been submitted to the DOJ’s Office of School Safety, but were not. This is a regrettable submission error. We’re confident that the recent hire of a safety and security coordinator will put stronger supports in place to prevent this kind of oversight from happening again.

Superintendent Dan Olson

And Michael Lancaster, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Madison writes:

All diocesan schools completed their annual emergency and violence drills last year (2021-2022). However, three of our schools submitted their records after the given deadline. Another school had submitted its records on time, however they had been filed improperly in the system used by the Office of School Safety. My office has worked with these schools to assure that the Office of School Safety knows the drills were conducted as required. We will continue to work with all our schools so that the records are submitted prior to the stated deadlines. As the safety of our students and staff is a top priority, our schools regularly conduct fire, hazardous weather, emergency and violent event drills throughout the school year.

Michael Lancaster, Superintendent of Catholic Schools

And back in DeForest, Dr. Toetz says now all her schools are compliant after NBC15 Investigates reached out inquiring why they weren’t.

“I’m in a new role. We had a shift in administration. I’ve been able to figure out some things about safety and again it’s a priority. And we’ve always done all the work of the drills. This part of loading the plan and the drills into the DOJ site is something that with new administration is definitely in compliance now,” says Toetz.

Toetz says she thinks there is a way the state can better support schools and guide them into compliance, and it has to do with when the reports are due.

“The only thing I would say is the timing,” says Toetz.

Toetz pointed out the state’s safety deadline of January first doesn’t coincide with the July to July calendar schools across the state currently run on. She says changing that would work better with the school’s already existent paperwork flow.

“It’s our fiscal year. It’s when we have time to do some of the compliance measures as well because we aren’t with all our students and staff at that time,” says Toetz.

Doctor Toetz is taking safety one step further with the creation of a new position, a district wide safety coordinator.

“When I think of the DOJ requirements, I think of those as the bare minimum. How can we go above and beyond to make sure we provide our staff and students with what they need?” says Roz Craney, who is a principal at Yahara Elementary and now also the safety coordinator for the district.

Craney says the position is becoming more common in the area.

“As we look now, more and more school districts are going to a role like this. In fact one of the things we are trying to start up is have all the people with similar roles in Dane County to make sure we provide common services, make sure we are doing things to really enhance and learn from each other,” says Craney.

The state is making changes to help bridge the gap, too.

“We just currently, very recently in the past month or so, have added four employees to look at every schools’ submissions and be able to look more clearly at where some suggestions may be for improvement, and if a school has not submitted a document- us actually making direct contact with them and coaching them through the process of completion,” says Kilpin.

NBC15 Investigates reached out to the remaining private schools that did not respond multiple times and did not hear back.

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