SIOUX CITY -- Metro Sioux City school administrators say they have detailed security plans in place that aim to prevent mass shootings like the one that killed 17 in Florida last week.
In the wake of the second deadliest shooting at a U.S. school, local administrators say they have no current plans to install metal detectors at entrances but are contemplating additional safety measures.
"Metal detectors have not been discussed. School resource officers have been," said Patricia Lansink, interim superintendent of the Diocese of Sioux City Catholic Schools, which oversees Bishop Heelan in Sioux City and 15 other Catholic school systems in Northwest Iowa.
School district officials said they are mindful of keeping security plans fresh to try to have the safest schools possible. The Catholic schools and Sioux City and South Sioux City public school districts hold training drills at least once a year to make sure students and staff know what to do in various crisis scenarios.
Of the two-plus drills per year at the South Sioux City district, some involve an active shooter situation, district spokesman Lance Swanson said.
"The students are part of our lockdown/lockout drills. In addition, we have conversations with our students about what to do in various situations and scenarios," Swanson said.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, on Thursday was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder for fatally shooting students and adults with an assault-style rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Wednesday. Cruz, a former student expelled from the school, had exhibited erratic behavior, had made threats on social media sites, and police had been called to his home at least 36 times since 2010.
Sioux City School District Superintendent Paul Gausman, who described the shooting as "an unspeakable tragedy," said the case demonstrates that not only school staff but also members of the public should report individuals who show signs of suffering or wanting to harm themselves or others.
Over the past 19 years, ever since high-profile school shootings in Columbine, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut; and other U.S. cities, schools across the country, including in Siouxland, have increasingly ramped up security plans, adding cameras and call-in systems and often limiting access to one entrance.
"Our policy was created in 2013 after the Newtown tragedy," Lansink said. "School safety is always on the minds of our staff and administrators. School safety plans are living, breathing documents that are in a constant state of review and revision as needed, and are often reviewed annually by staff and administrators."
Some districts, like South Sioux City, require all teachers and high school students to wear photo ID on lanyards, so visitors can be more readily noticed.
A bill that moved a step ahead from a committee in the Iowa Senate on Thursday would require active shooter plans for all K-12 school buildings by 2019. An estimated three-fourths of Iowa school districts currently have such plans for their buildings.
Gausman said front-end measures designed by schools help prevent violent incidents.
"The district has provided programming and speakers at school to address this topic," Gausman said. "District employees are trained to watch for warning signs. In addition, the district uses a sophisticated social media tool that uses algorithms to monitor public social media posts for threatening and concerning words."
Each Sioux City public school building has cameras trained on each door, even those that can't be opened during the school day, as well as other cameras inside and outside the buildings. All doors are secured during the day, and entrance is obtained through contact by buzzer with the main office, where personnel via cameras can see the person wanting to get in. That is a method used in small and large schools throughout Siouxland.
A police officer, also known as a resource officer, also is stationed at each of the six Sioux City public high schools and middle schools.
In planning an appropriate response to possible danger, mock drills for various possible incidents take place during the year and some drills are planned in concert with the Sioux City Police Department, Sioux City Fire Rescue and Woodbury County Sheriff's Office. Each school also completes safety drills to help students prepare for potential crisis.
If a crisis scenario were to occur, Gausman said in a high-level threat, local law enforcement officials would lead the situation management.
Coverage of high-profile school shootings have shown distraught parents near schools awaiting word on whether their children were safe. Various ways might be used to contact parents, Swanson and Lansink said.
"Depending on the situation, we would probably use a multifaceted approach," Swanson said. "We can use our mass notification system to call, email and text. We would also rely on local media, social media and our website to get information or instructions to the public and parents."
Lansink said the Catholic Schools' mobile alert system would deliver information to parents.
On Thursday, South Dakota legislative leaders encouraged school districts to allow approved employees to carry guns after the Florida high school shooting.
South Dakota Senate Majority Leader Blake Curd said the state's "school sentinel" program, passed in 2013, is a resource schools should use. It allows for arming of school employees, hired security personnel or volunteers, with the requirement that the sentinels be trained.
SIOUX CITY | There has been a learning curve for both concertgoers and staff, but management says the use of metal detectors and wands at two Sioux City entertainment venues in the opening weeks of 2018 has generally proceeded smoothly.
"We've had 21,000 people pass through in the past four weeks," said Erika Newton, the general manager of the Tyson Events Center and Orpheum Theatre. "For the most part, there have been no issues. There have been times we've been tweaking what we put into place."
Sioux City purchased 26 walk-through metal detectors to use at the Tyson and Orpheum last year as more and more big-name shows began requesting heightened security. Some acts had told the city they would not return to the venues until they added detectors.
The move also came in the wake of multiple high-casualty events at concerts last year, including the May 22 bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, United Kingdom, that killed 22 and the Oct. 1 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, that left 59 dead.
Sioux City held off using the detectors until the beginning of this year due to the transition of the two venues from city management to the management of the private Philadelphia-based firm Spectra. The Tyson began using the detectors in mid-January for the Barnes Bull-Riding Challenge, and the Orpheum Theatre began using them days later for the venue's Jan. 19 America concert. Detectors and wands will, in general, be in use for all events in the future.
Attendees at some of the first few events reported longer wait times than normal. The night of Jan. 26, when Sioux City resident Norma Golden-Miller and six family members arrived at the Orpheum Theatre about 40 minutes early to see "The Wizard of Oz," she said they were met with a line about a block long stretching to the north and south of the venue entrance.
"We stood outside at least 25 minutes," Golden-Miller said. "We've never had to wait before."
Golden-Miller said it was after that wait, once her family reached the front of the line and realized what was holding up the crowd, that she noticed the new detectors. When she did, she was glad for the extra safety precaution.
"When we saw the reason why there was a line, it was all good," she said. "We had a lot -- seven of us in our family -- going, and we want to be safe."
The family made it into their seat slightly late, just in time for the closing lines of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Golden-Miller said she plans to budget extra time for the next event she attends.
Also attending that show was Donna Huls, who holds season tickets for the Sioux City Symphony and Broadway series. Also unaware of the added security, she said she and the rest in her group were flustered by the long line.
"We didn't realize it had to do with security screening until we saw the placards posted outside," she said. "When we got into our seats at 7:37, the play was underway."
Huls has been to two events at the Orpheum since and said she has made it a point to arrive earlier and has since noticed smoother movement of the lines.
"They had more screeners, they had more detectors in operation, so there were more lines to go through," she said.
Newton said that, like many markets where metal detectors are introduced, the challenges have been in getting the word out and encouraging people to arrive early and educating them on what they can and cannot bring.
"The basic instructions would be get here as early as you can -- doors typically open an hour before the show -- and pack as lightly as you can," Newton said. "Bring as small a bag as you possibly can."
Newton said there have been few issues so far and highlighted the Jan. 20 Kevin Hart "Irresponsible Tour" at the Tyson Events Center that drew 7,500 people. She said lines were not free of backups but that people were mostly making it through in a matter of minutes.
"I was timing people (in line) 15 minutes before the show, and people were getting in in like four minutes," Newton said.
She said during Sunday's Rent 20th Anniversary Tour at the Orpheum, staff opened up the back doors as another entrance, which also helped the line cycle through smoothly. People coming from the parking garage to the Patron's Lounge used by Orpheum donors can also access the venue via that door.
The metal detectors are being run by events center and theater security staff, at times with additional help from an outside agency.
Newton said doors typically open an hour before the show, which should be ample time to get everyone seated as long as they don't all arrive 10 minutes before the show.
She added that many have been thankful for the added measures.
"Most people have been happy with the heightened security measures," Newton said. "People feel safer."
DES MOINES — Immigration arrests and deportations increased significantly during the past year in Iowa and its neighboring states, federal data shows.
Those numbers have spiked under the heightened focus on enforcing U.S. immigration laws by President Donald Trump’s administration.
Immigration arrests are up 67 percent and deportations 55 percent in the region that includes Iowa, according to the data.
“I can only speak for the Latino immigrants and the undocumented, and there is a lot of fear, a lot of apprehension and uncertainty,” Michael Reyes, who is from Davenport and is the state director of Iowa’s chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told the bureau last year. “There are things that are happening now as a result of this current administration, and it’s got (immigrants living in the country without full legal status) in fear.”
After making immigration reform one of the central staples of his campaign, Trump immediately instructed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more forcefully.
The Trump administration said it would continue to prioritize immigrants in the country illegally who also had been convicted of other crimes, as did President Barack Obama’s administration. But the Trump administration made clear it would not stop there.
Approximately 11 million immigrants live in the U.S. without legal residency, according to the Pew Research Center.
“Anyone who is in the United States illegally is subject to deportation,” Trump said during a September 2016 campaign speech in Arizona.
Shortly after he took office, Trump’s administration began the work of enforcing the stronger immigration policy.
“Under this executive order, with extremely limited exceptions, (the federal Department of Homeland Security) will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement. All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to enforcement proceedings, up to and including removal from the United States,” reads a February 2017 department fact sheet. “The guidance makes clear, however, that (the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE) should prioritize several categories of removable aliens who have committed crimes, beginning with those convicted of a criminal offense.”
That focus has produced significant increases in immigration arrests and deportations, according to federal data. Nationally, arrests are up 30 percent, although deportations nationally are down 6 percent, according to the data.
The federal immigration enforcement agency does not keep state-level data, but does track regional data, an agency a spokesman said. Iowa is included in a five-state area that includes Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas.
Deportations in the five-state area increased 55 percent, and immigration arrests jumped 67 percent, between the federal fiscal years 2016 and 2017 — or the period of time that began shortly before Trump was elected until September 2017.
And enforcement did not just focus on immigrants with a criminal history. The number of deportations of immigrants without a criminal conviction jumped 74 percent from the 2016 to 2017 budget years, and the number of arrests nearly tripled.
Immigration arrests and deportations in the five-state area had been decreasing from the 2013 to 2016 federal budget years, according to the data. The spike in 2017 brings the numbers roughly to the same level as 2013.
After assisting with the data, the federal spokesman did not immediately return a message with questions about the numbers.
In a recent report, a federal immigration official told the Washington Post the department and Trump administration simply is restoring the rule of law.
“What are we supposed to do?” Matthew Albence, the top official in the agency’s immigration enforcement division, told the Post. If the department does not uphold its duties and enforce immigration laws, Albence told the Post, “then the system has no integrity.”
Iowa immigrant advocacy groups are tracking numbers in Iowa to the best of their ability via an immigration enforcement hotline that was created in February 2017, a month after Trump took office.
According to the groups, in the past year 64 Iowa families have reported deportation, detention or surveillance by federal agents, and the targets have lived in Iowa from six months to 15 years.
Two beneficiaries of federal protections for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally while they were children have been detained by federal authorities, the advocacy groups said.
More than four out of every five reported arrests took place early in the morning when immigrants were on their way to work, and federal agents have targeted a handful of central Iowa Mexican restaurants, the advocacy groups said.
“They’re in survival mode as it is,” Reyes said of the immigrants under threat of possible arrest or deportation. “They’re just trying to put food on the table and get their kids educated, but now the deportations are disrupting their families. (Federal agents) are splitting families up.”