Here are the security measures in Toronto’s schools and what happens when there is a threat

This article contains content that may be shocking to some of our readers.

On Thursday, May 26, some schools in Toronto were forced to close or detain after reports that a man was carrying a gun nearby.

Narcity spoke with Ryan Bird, the executive officer for Community Relations at the Toronto District School Board, to discuss the TDSB’s security measures at their schools in light of recent events in Toronto and also in the US.

What is the difference between a hold and secure, and a lockdown?

The main difference between the two is whether or not students would continue their classes normally.

A hold and secure is a response to a nearby threat or incident where the school will close the outside doors as a precaution, but everyone inside will continue with classes.

Lockdowns are more serious and are used when an emergency occurs, either within the school or very close to the school grounds.

“For a shutdown, all exterior doors would be locked, but students and staff would remain in the classrooms, the lights would be turned off, stay away from windows and typically hide under desks [..] and that’s part of a lockdown procedure or an exercise,” Bird said. According to the TDSB, cell phone use is also restricted and students will not be able to use their phone at that time.

All 583 TDSB schools hold lockdown drills twice a year, Bird said. So if there is a security issue, they know what to do in that situation.

What is the screening process for visitors during school hours?

In addition to having their doors locked during the school day, Bird said primary schools come with secure entry systems with an audio or video buzzer, making their security measures quite secure.

The doors only open when the kids come for class at the beginning of the day (and when it’s time to go home), as well as during the lunch period.

“Anyone who enters the school should go in and… [have] the door was opened by a staff member before they could get in,” Bird said.

If parents come to the school during a visit, they must tell them who their child is before they are allowed in.

“If you have a reason to be there, you can be admitted. But again, it’s just up to each individual school based on who’s buzzing through the main entrance,” Bird said.

For TDSB high schools, it’s a bit different, as students can come and go at different times depending on their class schedules.

“I do know that some schools would lock some exterior doors so there are fewer entry points to the school for students and staff to come and go through,” Bird said.

What other security measures are there?

Bird said TDSB schools have taken “some steps” as some schools have surveillance cameras and tons of “caring adults” who can help students when they have concerns.

“We’re obviously also working closely with the Toronto Police Department,” Bird said.

“If they feel there is a problem in the community that needs our attention, they would contact the local school, as was the case [last week]and ask them to go on hold and secure or go into lockdown.”

Will the TDSB step up any of its security protocols in light of recent events?

On Friday, May 27, Bird said the Toronto Police Department did not inform the TDSB of additional precautions needed after the incident, as there was no threat to the community. The SIU later confirmed that the suspect was carrying a bullet rifle and that he was pronounced dead at the scene.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that students and staff remain safe,” Bird said.

The cover image of this article is used for illustrative purposes only.

This interview has been abbreviated and edited for clarity.

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