Lori Otter unveils new school security initiative

First Lady Lori Otter on Tuesday helped unveil the Idaho Office of School Safety and Security.

Created by legislation pushed earlier this year by Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Wendy Horman, the office is a new initiative housed within Division of Building Safety.

The goal of the security initiative is to increase safety for students and educators through training and on-site security assessments that will identify areas of vulnerability.

“This campaign is by far, to me, one of the most important things that have happened through the State Board of Education and through the Legislature,” said Otter, a former educator and children’s author.

The initiative launched July 1, when Horman’s legislation hit the books.

During Tuesday’s ceremonies, Otter and Division of Building Safety Administrator C. Kelly Pearce announced that former Idaho teacher and principal Brian Armes has been hired as manager of the Office of School Safety and Security.

Brian Armes
Brian Armes

Armes will work with a team of three security consultants stationed regionally throughout the state. Armes’ longtime colleague Guy Bliesner, the former health and safety coordinator for the Bonneville Joint School District, will serve as a security consultant based out of Pocatello.

Mike Munger, the former health and safety coordinator for the Boise district, will serve as a security consultant based in Meridian.

And former Tacoma, Wash., police officer and school resource officer Mark Feddersen serves as a security consultant based out of Coeur d’Alene.

Armes said the new safety and security initiative is important because of the opportunity to share resources and expertise via a united front.

“As a state, we’re getting together a more concerted effort, instead of individual communities and individual schools (doing their own thing),” Armes said. “Now, it’s a state effort.”

Armes and Bliesner both worked for Bonneville district before quitting their education jobs a few years back to focus on school security through the consulting firm Educators Eyes. Armes and Bliesner both helped the state complete a series of security threat assessments in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting in December 2012.

Guy Bliesner
Guy Blister

Through those threat assessments, Armes and Bliesner found that unauthorized adults were able to enter 71 of the 74 schools they surveyed through points other than the schools’ designated main entrances.

They also routinely found vulnerabilities such as gymnasium doors that were propped open and cafeteria doors that were not secured during the school day.

Those findings led them to believe that additional training and security assessments were needed statewide.

Otter also unveiled one of the public awareness campaigns associated with the safety and security initiative. The “See Tell Now!” campaign encourages students to become more aware of their surroundings and immediately report anything out of the ordinary – such as an unknown adult in the hallway or an unidentified package on the playground – to the nearest teacher or administrator.

The campaign will feature a llama mascot and be broadcast through a series of television and radio public service announcements.

Armes’ team, which was hired and in place by July 18, also performed its first security assessment last week in Mountain Home.

The team’s goal is to perform similar assessments and provide relevant follow up training and recommendations at every public school over the next three years.