Schools in 3 more Wis. counties ‘non-compliant’ for required violence drills
An open records request from the Wisconsin DOJ shows 51 schools in Rock, Sauk and Columbia Counties combined are 8 months late in completing their annual violence drill requirements.
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - New data from an open records request from the Department of Justice’s Office of School Safety lists 51 schools in three south central Wisconsin counties that are considered non-compliant when it comes to planning, practicing and submitting summaries for school violence drills.
“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.
Back in August, NBC15 Investigates received data on Dane County schools considered non-compliant by the state. 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 Wisconsin DOJ has now completed NBC15 Investigates’ second open records request for schools, public and private, considered non-compliant with safety drills and/or reporting in Rock, Sauk and Columbia Counties. NBC15 is in the process of reaching out to each individual school to find out why the school is on the list.
According to the DOJ, 18 schools in Rock County have not completed their violence drill requirements. Those individual schools come from Janesville, Evansville, Edgerton and Beloit. Nine of those schools are private schools in Janesville, Edgerton and Beloit.
Evansville District Administrator Laurie Burgos emailed NBC15 saying the following on behalf of the four schools on the non-compliance list in her district.
The Evansville Community School District completed all state-required drills, which were reviewed by the School Board on December 15, 2021. We believe the reports were submitted to the Office of School Safety and will reach out to the Department of Justice to investigate the breakdown in reporting. The safety of our staff and students is our top priority. We are very fortunate to have a strong partnership with local and county law enforcement agencies and will continue working on proactive safety measures in addition to safety preparedness and responses.
In Sauk County, the DOJ says eight schools are non-compliant. This includes five between Sauk Prairie and River Valley. Two private schools in Baraboo were on the list and one in Reedsburg.
Sauk Prairie High School was listed as non-compliant according to the state. Sauk Prairie Superintendent Jeff Wright disputes that, saying his district did all required planning and drills and submitted the data to the state before the deadline on December 22, 2021. The deadline was January 1, 2022. Superintendent Wright says once NBC15 contacted him, he has since reached out to the Office of School Safety to find out where the disconnect is.
After Superintendent Wright reached out to the Department of Justice about their concern, the DOJ says they re-checked their records. Samantha Standley, the DOJ Deputy Communications Director, says Sauk Prairie High School should not have been included on the non-compliance list provided to NBC15 Investigates. The school turned in the necessary documentations on December 22, 2021.
In Columbia County, according to the DOJ as of August 30, 25 schools are considered non-compliant. Those schools come from Rio, Portage, Fall River, Columbus and Cambria-Friesland. Eight private schools were listed across Poynette, Portage, Pardeeville, Lodi, Columbus and Cambria.
Portage District Administrator Josh Sween emailed NBC15 saying the following on behalf of the four schools on the non-compliance list in his district.
I am checking on the paperwork side of things to determine why the DOJ’s Office of School Safety is reporting that we did not submit the paperwork for the school violence drills. What I can tell you is that each and every building in the PCSD conducted at least 2 of these drills each of the last two years that I have been the District Administrator. The drills are scheduled at the beginning of the year, a report is provided to the school board, and then they are submitted to the state. We work with our building administrators to make sure that all staff are trained in how to handle crisis situations, and classroom teachers go through scenarios and drills with their students in an effort to make sure everyone is prepared in the event the unthinkable happens. The PCSD has a wonderful partnership with the Portage Police Department as well as the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. We work with the city of Portage to share the cost of a School Resource Officer from the Portage Police Department.
Columbus Superintendent Jacob Flood emailed NBC15 saying the following on behalf of the three public schools on the non-compliance list in his district.
Columbus School District’s Annual Safe School Requirements were approved by the Board of Education on December 13, 2021, as mandated. Communication with the DOJ’s Office of School Safety helped provide insight to the partial components of the report that were not uploaded. We are confident that the steps are in place to avoid similar oversight. We are fortunate to have a strong relationship with our local responders. We have toured buildings, conducted collaborative meetings, and sought feedback from our local law enforcement, fire department, ambulance service, hospital, and city officials. This was especially important with our newly renovated buildings.
Kilpin with the Office of School Safety says the goal is to work with schools to compliance to ensure staff are set with the strongest safety plans possible for students. The state is working toward that goal by hiring more staff to help.
“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.
clarification: After Superintendent Wright reached out to the Department of Justice about their concern, the DOJ says they re-checked their records. Samantha Standley, the DOJ Deputy Communications Director, says Sauk Prairie High School should not have been included on the non-compliance list provided to NBC15 Investigates. The school turned in the necessary documentations on December 22, 2021.
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