AME, HBPD take steps to improve school security

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Holmes Beach Police Officer Josh Fleischer leads a fifth-grade class March 2 on DARE at Anna Maria Elementary. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí

Manatee School District isn’t taking chances in the aftermath of a school shooting Feb. 14 in Florida.

Local public schools, including Anna Maria Elementary, have ramped up security to address fears and concerns about school shootings.

AME updated its visitor policy, mandating that people visit the front desk as they enter and leave the building, requiring visitors to receive a new pass on every visit and collecting the passes on departure.

Previously, AME did not require visitors to return to the front desk before leaving and regular visitors re-used passes.

The Holmes Beach Police Department will continue to undergo active shooter training to prepare for worst-case scenarios, according to Chief Bill Tokajer.

Tokajer said he recently reached out to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to arrange more training for his officers.

Representatives from law enforcement agencies in Manatee County met Feb. 26 with school district officials to discuss security, including placing 35 additional officers in district schools.

This plan won’t change much for AME because the school has a law enforcement officer on-site, Tokajer said.

HBPD provides the school resource officer at AME and has done so since 2000.

“We will continue to do the training that we do, increasing our lock-down drills at different times of the day so we can have live training with the kids,” the chief said.

Tokajer said changing the times that drills take place would prepare children for different scenarios, such as a shooter arriving while they’re on the playground.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to do things like this, but it’s obvious in this day and age that we have to prepare and we have to do everything we can to safeguard our children,” Tokajer said.

 

AME’s LEO on scene: Officer Josh

Every morning, HBPD Officer Josh Fleischer is waiting at the bus drop off or the front door of AME to greet students.

Fleischer said he makes an effort to get to know every child on a first-name basis, and he tries to keep up with the parents as well.

Along with making him a familiar face at school, his morning greetings also help him determine who should and shouldn’t be on campus.

Fleischer, who’s known to students as “Officer Josh,” said after school begins, his routine includes making sure all exterior doors are secured and the classroom doors are locked.

After patrolling the halls, he said he usually participates in classroom lessons, helping students with everything from drug education to practicing writing skills.

Near lunchtime, when most students are at recess, he patrols outside.

During the afternoons, he has more combinations of hall sweeps and class lessons, including leading the Drug Abuse Resistance Education lessons on Fridays.

In addition, Fleischer said he regularly monitors the school’s gates, doors and parking lots for unfamiliar faces, and keeps track of activities through cameras installed throughout the campus.

Fleischer said the 2017-18 school year is his second full year as AME’s police resource officer on site and in the classroom. He has served 14 years as a law enforcement officer, including eight years with the HBPD.

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