The Ballard Talisman

Security team continues to improve safety precautions for students

In light of recent school shootings, security specialist Marcus Lewis contributes to school safety both as a protector and a mentor

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Security Specialist Marcus Lewis

Security Specialist Marcus Lewis

Skye McDonald

Skye McDonald

Security Specialist Marcus Lewis

Eileen MacDonald, Opinions Editor

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In recent years, the increase in school violence has led to a nation-wide conversation about what the best strategies are for school safety. This conversation affects everyone: the students, the parents, the teachers, and the greater community. But who it really comes back to is those who are put in place specifically to create a safe environment in school, and not only that, but to be mentors and trusting figures that students feel they can talk to.

Security Specialist Marcus Lewis has been in the field for 10 years, and is beginning his fourth year at Ballard. While he knew ambiguously what he wanted to do with his life for a long time, he did not anticipate that this is where he would end up.

“I love working with children,” Lewis said. “I used to teach, believe it or not. I was fresh out of college, I got a teaching job, and that wasn’t for me. Not at that age. I was what, 21 or 22 years old, and teaching 16, 17, 18 year old kids, that’s in my age bracket. So after that I joined the military, and after I got out of the military I started working for the state of Washington as a social worker, and then this job became open and I took it, because I like summers off too.”

Despite his start as a math major, Lewis now works as a team with two other security specialists to increase and update security measures around the school, to keep track of any possible threats in or around campus, and to serve as a support network for students who need it.

After the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year, in addition to some local incidents of gun sightings on campus, Lewis and the team, which includes Soodjai Kutrakun and football coach Dan Delong, along with administration are working to make the school safer by all means necessary.

 

“We have upgraded our camera system,” Lewis said. “Our camera system was working slow, we upgraded the software on it and stuff and now it’s working at top speed. We are adding several other cameras in the building and around the building, specifically out in the area where our new portables are, we’ve got to have that area secured.”

In his decade of experience, Lewis has learned proactive strategies to prevent school break-ins before they occur. Only ten people in the entire school have keys to every classroom, which are then given to the police in the case of a lockdown so they can clear each room. In addition, while the locked doors entering the school are a common complaint among students, the choice is a conscious safety precaution.

“We make sure every door leading to the main outside streets are locked,” Lewis said. “And kids always ask why can’t we come through these doors after lunch. Because we want to have one way in and a lot of ways out, or only a couple ways in.”

Other than these physical precautions, the security office is also equipped with tools to aid in their work. This includes a computer program called SafePoint, which depicts a map of the area and will alert Lewis and the others of any crime in the area around campus and in the greater Seattle area. The program plays a large role in the decision to place our school in lockdown or shelter in place.

Earlier this year, an initiative was proposed in Washington state by Navy veteran and activist Tim Miller that, had it been passed, would have allowed adult non-students to conceal carry firearms on school campuses as an added security measure. Although this initiative did not make it on the ballot, there are other states across the U.S. where it is already in effect. While Lewis agrees that it’s important to continue updating safety precautions, he does not feel that guns are an effective strategy to do this, nor would he feel comfortable carrying one.

“I just think it’s bad because having weapons in schools– everyone is not fit to carry a weapon,” Lewis said. “So I have not carried a weapon since I left the military. You know if I need a weapon to be at school, which should be a safe place for students, I don’t need to be working there anymore. But if we called the police, the police could be here within minutes, within two to three minutes.”

Beyond his position as a security specialist, Lewis does a lot more for students, specifically those who participate in sports and are making decisions on what to do with their futures.

“My passion is helping kids get into college and stuff too you know,” Lewis said. “I work here but I coach at another school– I coach [football] at Garfield High School. I help kids who are in track, who are in basketball– if you want to go to college, there’s a college out there that I can find. If you want me to call a college I’ll call them, so I enjoy doing that for a kid. I was always taught it takes a village to raise a child, so it takes all of us to help you all out.”

 

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Security team continues to improve safety precautions for students