Video: Can we achieve school safety?

NBC News with Brian Williams
By Kevin Tibbles Correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/3/2006 7:32:12 PM ET 2006-10-03T23:32:12

A tragic timeline over the course of just one week: A 16-year-old shot dead in Colorado; a high school principal gunned down in Wisconsin; and now, five young girls killed in Pennsylvania.

Each is a tragedy that reverberates in the hallways of schools like Evanston Township High School north of Chicago.

"It's not just stuff we talk about," says Frank Kaminski, director of security at the school. "It's stuff we live and breathe on a regular basis."

Kaminski isn't just the school's director of security, he's Evanston's former police chief.

There's an armed officer on campus, a walkie-talkie call away from the police. Over the last decade, safety has taken its place right up there with the three R's.

Like in many schools, each student must show a school I.D. to enter and each visitor must pass through the security office. Movement is monitored by cameras in the hallways at all times, and there's a color-coded action plan for emergencies. Red means there's an armed intruder. Students and faculty train on how to react.

These safety codes aren't just dog-eared pieces of paper hanging on the wall.

"No, you'll see this in every classroom and every office throughout this building," Kaminski says.

At Chicago's Roberto Clemente High, they've taken the next step because of gang activity — students pass through metal detectors.

"If safety can't be adhered to, then the reason why we're here, which is education, can't take place," says principal Leonard Kenebrew.

But in school communities that are often just as big as the neighborhoods surrounding them, security analysts say parents must be key partners in keeping them safe.

"Our enemy now is complacency; It's letting down our guard, it's lulling ourselves into believing it can't possibly happen here," says Andres Durbak, director of safety for Chicago Public Schools.

And as Monday's rampage in Pennsylvania shows, it can happen.

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