Tomahawk police, school district work together to address school safety concerns Submitted: 03/16/2018
Allie Herrera
Allie Herrera

Tomahawk police, school district work together to address school safety concerns
TOMAHAWK - Since the start of the school year, the Tomahawk School District called the police department 55 times. Police say the majority of those calls are related to disorderly conduct or students skipping school. But Chief Al Elvins thinks there's an easy fix that could also better protect the school. 
"This could easily have three officers up here, I mean, as big as it is," said Elvins, while driving past the school Friday. 

Adding a resource officer for the first time isn't the only change the Tomahawk police chief is pushing for.

Elvins wants certain school policies to be re-evaluated. He was concerned over a school policy that stated in part, "administration shall maintain the lead role in the investigation" when police are called to the school.

"I can't have the school aiding as agents of the police department because once we ask them to do something then they're an agent of ours and they're under guidelines that we have," said Elvins. 

Elvins talked to Tomahawk School District Superintendent Terry Reynolds about the policy and hopes some changes can be made. Reynolds says the school's attorney told them there's reason for the wording in that policy. 

"There's less standard for us to do a search with the efforts and actually we can ask police to do the search and everything else as long as we're in the lead," said Reynolds. 

Some parents and community members are concerned with what seems to be a lack of communication between the school, police, and community. 
"I think Chief Elvins and Terry Reynolds are riding the same train here. They're just on opposite ends of the train as far as what they like as far as protocol and things," said Marguerite Lyskawa. 

Lyskawa, who has a child in the middle school, would like to see a school policy related to threats and active shooter situations. She and Tomahawk business owner Deb Christie also want to see more of a police presence inside the school. 

"I'm not saying it's going to happen in Tomahawk, but the way society is today, in my opinion, I think the police should be allowed to come into the school at any time and just walk the hallways [and] make sure everybody is okay," said Christie. 

Reynolds says the school has been working on adding more of a police presence and changing up its policies. He also says hiring a resource officer isn't out of the question. 

"What we're going to work on is trying to be able to have the police come in and not have everybody worry that there's a situation or that something's going on that they need to be alarmed about," said Reynolds. 

Chief Elvins says more of a police presence would help strengthen those lines of communications.

"We're not up there to try and intimidate, harass, or pick on anybody, but it's important that kids see us if we see something that doesn't look right, we have the training, the expertise [and] the knowledge to see something," Elvins said. 

Reynolds says since the start of his time as superintendent in 2015, the school has added some keyless entries and automatic door locks. The school is currently working with a company to develop a phone app for teachers to use during emergency situations. Reynolds says they're also working on ways to secure the building from the inside. 
The district will be hosting a safety roundtable open to the public on March 21, April 3, and April 4. Reynolds says anyone that wants to voice their concerns, share ideas, or learn more about what's being worked on is welcome to go.

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