Out of tragedy comes new safety efforts

Out of tragedy comes new safety efforts »Play Video

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - For Fire Chief Dennis Murphy, the emotional wounds are still fresh.

"It's hard for me to think of that event even now, 10 years later, without choking up basically," he said.

The horror of the May 21, 1998, shooting Thurston High School sparked a local anti-school violence movement that swept a nation: the Ribbon of Promise.

Murphy said it soon became clear the main message had to be delivered by students, for students.

"What they said to us is we believe we can get kids to speak up and tell what they know and prevent these attacks from happening," Murphy said.

That led to the award-winning "By Kids, 4 Kids" campaign, getting students to speak out at the threat of violence.

Ten years later, American schools are safer, Murphy said.

"There's no doubt about it," he said. "In fact, I do believe the evidence of 40 attacks stopped in a relatively compressed time frame is the evidence that we're in better shape."

On the Thurston campus, people will notice changes this summer to boost security.

"The biggest thing in school planning is the issue of 'sep-tev.'  It's crime prevention through environmental design," Steve Barrett, deputy Springfield superintendent.

Over the summer, the district will add more perimeter fencing and a card-swiping system. What used to be 27 fairly open access points on the campus will be reduced to five to seven controlled access points, all those with a purpose. The $275,000 for the project comes from a voter-approved bond measure.

"That will make it that much more efficient than it is now," Barrett said. "There are spots now where you literally can still walk in a little more freely than we'd like."

Barrett and Murphy hope they'll achieve a balance between campus security and creating an environment where students will break the code of silence.