Today is the first day of the 2019-2020 school at Joplin School District. The roughly two and a half month long break for students, teachers and administrators is over and the start of a new season and cooler temperatures are on the horizon. While students are figuring out their new class schedule and teachers are finding their new routine there is one man overlooking the safety of the districts 17 schools, the Director of Safety and Security for Joplin Schools Jim Hounschell.
Hounschell is no stranger to Joplin, having worked at Joplin Police Department for 25-years prior to being hired by the school district in 2006. He admits initially that there was a learning curve between working the streets of Joplin and working in an educational environment. Hounschell says that Joplin school district relies on both best practices to create an district-wide safety plan and on federal guidelines that are provided to school districts.
In January of 2019, a student at Joplin High School brought a loaded hand-gun to campus in their backpack.The student was arrested as another student informed school officials of the gun and the situation was neutralized prior to a possible tragedy taking place. To further protect students from students bringing guns on to campus some school districts have installed metal detectors as a way to deter firearms being brought to schools by students. Hounschell says that metal detectors would be difficult to implement at a large high school such as Joplin and it’s over 2,200 students.
Instead of installing metal detectors across the district Hounschell says that the Joplin Schools is taking more of a hands-on approach with ‘Behavioral Risk Assessment Teams’. Hounschell explains that it works by a having a team at each of the districts 17-schools who work to identity students who exhibit behaviors that could result in violent behaviors. The assessment teams rely on teachers noticing that a student is acting in a usual way or another student informing a teacher or administrator of something out of the ordinary. This allows both school and the district to have a much more organic approach when investigating, more quickly averting an escalation of the situation and possibly getting a student the help they may need.