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Student journalist exposes security flaws at Hastings High
It started as an investigative report for a journalism class project;
And when it was all done; it was an expose' of flaws in the security at Hastings High School.
Senior Shane Samuelson is a reporter for the school's Tiger Cub Online newspaper. His idea: send an unauthorized adult into the school with a hidden camera; and see if he would get stopped.
The video is fascinating... and the results; a little scary.
Diane Sawyer: "And you heard that right, it is unthinkable, an elementary school."
Lester Holt: "Where 20 children were shot dead along with six adults at that school, by a lone shooter."
It's tragedies like this that make us wonder how safe is our school?
"The reality of our society today is that we do have to do things to make sure that things are safe and that we know the people in our building," said Hastings High Principal Jay Opperman.
To test Hastings High School's security we had Dustyn John enter the building and roam the hallways and the results are astonishing.
"I walked through three teachers standing on either side of the hall, in between them and said 'good morning guys' and passed right on through," said John.
Equipped with a video and audio recording device, he entered through the west entrance just before the start of morning classes.
He was able to maneuver around the building without being detected.
"It's been a nice leisurely walk in the morning," John said.
On his way to his next checkpoint, he walked by not one but two teachers who even had a conversation with him without asking him who he was and why he was in the building.
"I thought, 'what is he doing here?' and I even said that to Mrs. Shaw. Shame on me, shame on us, we didn't actually stop him and say anything," said Jean Davis.
Next, he entered through the main entrance, while classes were in session and had no trouble getting around the building. We decided to run our next trial during a passing period with hopes of different results.
"People I've seen? Over a dozen easily," said John.
He was able to pass nine teachers and dozens of students without anyone saying a word.
"They did look at me and, I guess, I was an unfamiliar face to them but they didn't show measurable amount of apprehension," said John.
"Honestly, the biggest reason was because the bell was about to ring and I gotta get to class, I don't know, but you got us. We totally should have, that's the point," Davis said.
Because of the construction people are probably a little more lenient on people walking in the building. That's still not an excuse is it?
"I'm gonna be honest. If somebody is really mentally unstable and they really want to do something bad, I don't know if that can ever be totally prevented, and I know that's not a nice thing to say. If somebody really wanted to do something that bad," said Opperman.
What exactly do we have in place to keep random strangers out of the building?
"What has been added is obviously a camera system that covers pretty much all of the school, interior and exterior. Tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary are the ones that we never think can happen close to home," said Brent Eigenberg.
Hastings Public Schools Superintendent Craig Kautz and Hastings High School Principal Jay Opperman spoke with News 5 this morning about school security.
Chris Schukei: Craig Kautz is the Superintendent at Hastings Public Schools. Jay Opperman, the principal at Hastings High School. First of all, great story. Shane did a really nice job, the kid's got a future ahead of him, no question about that. Jay, let me start with you. You were actually involved in the inception of this. Give us some of the background behind this report.
Jay Opperman: Shane and the Tiger Cub approached me and said we'd like to do some investigative reporting and I really looked at it from an educational standpoint. That's something we haven't done yet. And so we talked about a way, obviously with the pertinence of a story like this, we wanted to provide an avenue for our Tiger Cub to do an investigative report. So then we talked about how that could happen and worked with Shane and through his mother, really, found a person that wouldn't be easily recognizable at school. Then we actually sat down with Mr. John in advance and talked about where he'd walk in the school and if he was encountered by a staff member to act in a manner that wasn't resistive. We didn't want to be a thing that would create fear if staff did encounter or talk to the gentleman.
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