COLUMBIA — A group of Columbia Public Schools students are advocating for more safety precautions in their district.
Four members of “Students for Change” plan to speak at the Columbia school board meeting on Monday night. Members of the group say it advocates for school safety and raises awareness of gun violence, in an effort to feel safe at school.
Karli Jones is a freshman at Hickman High School who said she helped start Students for Change.
“Our fundamental objective in the simplest terms. We’re just trying to feel safer and we’re offering metal detectors and we need more protection, there’s no stopping it right now and I think there’s a false sense of security,” said Jones.
The group is pushing for metal detectors and trauma kits to be placed in schools. Jones said trauma kits are a good backup plan.
“Metal detectors are the first line of defense. This would ensure he catches weapons that might come into the school and we realize this can’t catch everything it’s not 100% nothing is so implementing the trauma kits would ensure that if anything were to happen, people at the scene would be able to provide critical care to those in need,” Jones said.
Jones said she did not feel completely safe at school due to a threat made against Hickman High School when they returned home in 2021. According to previous reports from KOMU 8, officials at CPS said they ended Hickman’s comeback dance early after hearing reports of someone with a gun at the dance.
Hickman’s manager, Tony Gragnani, emailed the parents saying District Security and the Columbia Police Department had investigated the rumors, which were found to be “unsubstantiated”.
Taylor Lee, a freshman at Hickman High School and a member of Students for Change, said the homecoming incident was one of the scariest feelings she had ever had.
“I just remember the feeling of calling my parents and telling them there might be a gun and it was so scary,” Lee said. “It’s an experience no child should ever have in a classroom.”
Along with metal detectors and trauma kits, Jones said parents need to educate themselves and their children.
“It would be very helpful to launch an innovative way to inform parents of the signs of a possible shooter at school, mental health things like that and to send them messages on how to properly store firearms in their house,” Jones said.
To advocate for safety changes, the group said it hung posters around schools in the district and got more than 200 signatures on a Change.org petition.
“We feel like it’s not going to happen here, but when you’re a student and threats like this happen and you cry on the phone with your friends because they think the dance is going accelerating is not a feeling. I want everyone to ever feel,” Jones said.
Lee said they were speaking out at the school board meeting because they “want to start a conversation within the community.”
“Honestly, we just hope that all the work we put into it won’t be wasted and that I can feel safe at school,” Jones said.
District spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the district has a “comprehensive safety and security plan for each of its buildings and the district. Exercises, personnel, equipment, supplies, building design, building safeguards ( buzz-ins, vestibules, windows, design, etc.), partnerships with emergency operations such as law enforcement, fire, healthcare, etc.”
Additionally, Baumstark said the board approved the return of security resource officers at a meeting last month. She said CPS is also installing secure vestibules. All schools have buzz-in systems and window coverings to toughen glass, and the high school has door monitors, Baumstark said.
A big supplier for the school district is funds from bond issues. The district told KOMU 8 that the April 2022 bond issue includes $2 million for safety and security.
Students for Change will speak at the public comment session at the school board meeting. KOMU 8 will broadcast the board meeting starting at 6:30 p.m.