Ontario Schools Not As Secure As Premier Claims

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Not all of Ontario schools are as secure as Premier Dalton McGuinty has said they are. (CP)
Not all of Ontario schools are as secure as Premier Dalton McGuinty has said they are. (CP)

Not all of Ontario schools are as secure as the premier and education minister claim them to be, CBC News has learned.

Just days after a mass shooting left 20 elementary school students dead in Newtown, Conn., Ontario's education minister insisted the province's schools are equipped to keep intruders out.

"All entrances to Ontario schools are kept locked during the school day to prevent entry of anyone who does not have authorization to enter the school," Laurel Broten told CBC News on Monday.

However, a CBC News reporter was able to easily walk into four schools Monday in Windsor, Ont.

Premier Dalton McGuinty had backed Broten's claim in a written statement: "Indeed, at Ontario elementary schools all entrances are kept locked during the school day to prevent entry from anyone who does not have authorization from walking through their doors." McGuinty.

However, only at Immaculate Conception Elementary Catholic School did a staff member immediately meet CBC News at the door. The doors weren't locked or attended at Queen Victoria Public School, Catholic Central High School or Kennedy Collegiate Institute.

The director of education for the Greater Essex School Board said he's concerned the doors were unlocked at Queen Victoria and Kennedy, but was surprised to hear the minister's claim.

"Not all of our schools are completely locked. I think that maybe what she was trying to say, and I don't want to put words in the minister's mouth, is, maybe, we need to get to that point, where all of the schools have locks on them and have to be accessed with a push button," Warren Kennedy said.

The Windsor Essex Catholic Board didn't immediately return calls placed by CBC News.

Some parents concerned

"I have a daughter who goes here, and for someone to be able to walk in, that really bothers me," said Danielle Hasler, whose daughter attends one of the Windsor elementary schools found to be easily accessible. "It’d be nice if it was a little more secure and got on top of things like that."

Jason Jost called the easy access at his son's school "a fluke."

"My son's been coming to the school for two years and you won't get into any other entrances in the school. They're all locked except at the front," he said. "Most times, they'll see you coming in and they'll stop you and ask you who you are."

Kennedy said high schools have video cameras. The board also has a tragic events response team and conducts emergency drills, he said.

Emergency drills

Last year, the local public school board, in conjunction with the region's first responders, simulated a school shooting. The drill took place on a Saturday at a high school in Leamington, Ont., south of Windsor.

"The exercise was designed to simulate the evolution of the incident from its inception through to its conclusion," said provincial police spokeswoman Const. Stephanie Moniz in an email. "This included the school implementing a lockdown, police response, fire and EMS response and a controlled evacuation of staff and students to an off-site location."

Several high school students CBC News spoke with had little or no concerns at about the accessibility of their schools.

Broten said Ontario teachers have had “training to handle violence in schools" and that schools have two lockdown drills each year.

"I think we do a lot of work to ensure their kids are safe," Kennedy said. "Is it perfect? No, it's never perfect. But one of our strategic goals is to have a safe learning environment."

Police and school officials in Newtown, Conn., say the gunman who killed 26 people, including 20 children, forced his way into Sandy Brook Elementary School, which was equipped with a buzz-in security system at the front door.

In his statement, McGuinty said the province has provided funding through its Safe Welcome Program to many of Ontario's elementary schools, to provide security devices to protect students from intruders.

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