The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

Safety issues in the Clayton community raise questions

Clayton is a community that is often thought of as sheltered and protected from the crime and violence that plagues most cities, but this idea recently took a hit. The idiomatic Clayton bubble seemed to take a step towards bursting this month as two security issues affected student life.

The first, which occurred on Feb. 10, was a bank robbery that caused CHS to go through a “soft lockdown,” as Principal Louise Losos said.  Losos was told by Student Resource Officer John Zlatic that the Regions Bank in Ladue, which is approximately half a mile from CHS, had been robbed by a man who claimed to be armed and that the man had fled on foot.

“Did I think he was headed directly for the school?” Losos said.  “No.  But could he have?  He could have.  So we did what I would call sort of a soft lockdown…. We asked teachers to pull people from the hallways, lock their doors, and we locked the exterior doors.”

Zlatic said that teachers manned exterior doors to allow students to enter while he and other police officers patrolled the parking lot.  “There was no sort of immediate, imminent threat,” according to Losos, and the lockdown was removed after several minutes.  The gunman was never apprehended.

Two days later, on Feb. 12, the Center of Clayton was closed to students and faculty. The Center’s statement on the incident says that the Center experienced a “safety concern,” and Clayton Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Operations Toni Siering declined to answer further questions.  Losos called the incident a “personnel issue,” and Zlatic said that “an individual known to the Clayton Police Department conveyed a specific threat of violence.” Losos said that she never thought that students were really endangered.

“There was never a bomb threat, and I never truly believed that there was going to be any danger involved,” Losos said. “[Closing the Center to students] was a precautionary measure.”

Zlatic agreed, but said that he works under the premise that it is better to be safe and sorry and that the incident warranted a response. Losos said that she had hoped to open the Center later in the day but that “events didn’t play out quickly.” According to Zlatic, one suspect was arrested at noon and a second around 3 p.m. At that point, Zlatic contacted the Center to remove the ban.  He also said that a Clayton Police Officer was stationed at the Center for the duration of the closure.

Despite their chronological proximity, Zlatic said he doesn’t see any connection between the two besides their locations. Losos pointed out that Clayton is unique in its location – it is at the heart of a city center – and in its philosophy, and that these qualities can contribute to the occurrence of outside threats to the school.

“Most high schools are created based on the concept of keeping students, teenagers, from making the wrong decision,” Losos said. “They close the campuses, you can’t be in the halls.  Clayton High School has the underlying philosophy of presuming that students will make the right decision and then responding when they don’t.”

She also said that some security measures, such as metal detectors, would not have helped the bathroom graffiti threats of last year or the bank robbery and threat at the Center. One way to increase security would be to close campus, but Losos said that she has no intention of doing that. In all Losos said that high schools have to respond to all threats, even if they seem remote.

“We have cameras throughout this building – we didn’t have those three years ago” Losos said. “Columbine changed schools, particularly high schools, forever, and how we have to respond to real or perceived threats is at a much higher level than it was fifteen years ago.  You can’t just presume nothing will happen.”

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The student news site of Clayton High School.
Safety issues in the Clayton community raise questions