Louisiana Deaf School “safer”
In a small, windowless room at the Louisiana School for the Deaf, two security guards are posted 24 hours a day to pore over live feed of activity in the hallways and common spaces of the school’s 22 buildings.
This state-of-the art surveillance system, installed during the school’s month-long closure in the fall, is among the upgrades intended to ensure the school’s 184 students are safe at the 122-acre Baton Rouge campus.
“It’s a better environment now,” said Liz Moore, acting director of the state’s Special School District. “It’s safer and we’re moving education in the direction it needs to go.”
State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek closed the school in early October after reports of sexual misconduct came to light, including the alleged rape of a 6-year-old girl by a 16-year-old boy on a bus chartered by the school.
This 174-camera, $282,000 system went online in November, Moore said, and there have been no known incidents of sexual misconduct since the school’s Nov. 5 reopening.
When the guards notice anything suspicious, they phone a roaming security guard and direct him to the location, said Willie Turner, school security director.
“The cameras have helped out tremendously,” Turner said. Student behavior has improved because they are aware they are being watched, he added.
To ensure dorm monitors regularly make their rounds at night, they are now required to check in electronically at stations located throughout the buildings, Turner said.
The school has also tried to increase parental involvement, granting them access to a Web site that tracks their child’s grades, attendance and disciplinary history.
Moore said quite a few parents are using the system.
School representatives held sign language classes for parents in north Louisiana in November, said Melissa Mills, a coordinator for the sign language and interpretation department.
Sign language classes for staff are ongoing, Mills said. When the school closed, Pastorek revealed that a full 20 percent of the staff was not proficient in the language. Since then, 9 percent have gained proficiency, Mills said.