A few weeks ago, Gary Community School Corporation leaders made a strategic decision to close West Side Leadership Academy (WSLA) for in-person instruction for two days after recovering unauthorized items during a random book bag search. These “security sweeps” occur periodically throughout school districts as a measure of protection for all students.
District officials went a step further announcing that several additional security measures would be implement as a result of the findings.
“Know that our safety plan is evolving and that we will be transparent in our efforts to keep parents, guardians and concerned citizens informed,” said GCSC Manager Dr. Paige McNulty in a statement to the community after the security sweep.
Since the initial announcement, the District has taken the following measures:
1. Installed 10 new metal detectors at West Side Leadership Academy. The metal detectors are in addition to metal detectors already located in the school and are equipped with more features. The additional devices also assist in conducting searches at a faster pace and more efficiently.
2. Ordered and distributed additional search wands to security team members. The search wands further assist in identifying items, including weapons, that are unauthorized on school grounds.
3. Ordered clear backpacks for all students. Students will receive clear backpacks lessen the likelihood of unauthorized items are brought into the school building.
The final two measures most recently implemented involve the assistance of staff and students. Former Gary Police Chief and GCSC ROTC administrator Colonel Richard Ligon was recently appointed to co-lead security measures at WSLA and throughout the district. Ligon also brings with him a team of retired law enforcement colleagues who are focused on making all school buildings safe places.
“The ultimate goal is to intervene before unsafe and violent acts can even occur on school grounds,” said Ligon. “I love working with young people, and know that if we show them that we care, that opens the door for us to positively impact their behavior and ensure that are students are safe while obtaining the first-rate education they deserve.”
Since arriving two weeks ago, Ligon has already conducted several trainings with security staff and faculty on school safety. Ligon also indicated that these trainings will be ongoing and open to parents and the community.
Lastly, the administration at WSLA has identified approximately 20 students of all grade levels to serve as student ambassadors. They have begun meeting weekly to develop programs and activities that help build on a positive culture for students and the entire school family.
“Our young people have stepped up to ensure that West Side is a safe school that they can be proud of,” said Principal Brandi Herrod. “They are doing morning announcements, PSAs, planning anti-bullying events, and more. I am confident that their actions will make a difference.”