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Safety First: How RPS 205 is Continuously Improving Security

school hallway, four security icons

The importance of safety and security in public schools cannot be overstated.

Ensuring a safe and secure learning environment is crucial to the well-being of students, staff and the community as a whole. Since 2018, there have been 158 school shootings resulting in injuries or deaths. Of the 158, 51 occurred in 2022 according to a January 6, 2023 Education Week report.

The ease of making a prank phone call to emergency services in an attempt to dispatch a large number of armed police officers – known as swatting – has added additional stress and uneasiness to our lives. We experienced this on April 12 when East High School fell victim to a swatting call. While this incident was stressful, it was evident that training and procedure played an integral role in the response. The police, staff, and students did a fantastic job.

It is important after events, such as East’s swatting incident, that we take time to reflect, make appropriate adjustments, and continue to refine our processes so we can be better prepared the next time. That’s exactly what we did. Since April 12, several after action meetings and discussions among cabinet members, physical security staff, school resource officers, students, teachers, principals, and multiple law enforcement agencies have taken place. The information gleaned from these has provided us with additional data to consider for planning.

What has been done?

  • Since 2007: Access control, cameras, and security training have been implemented at the district.
  • 2018: Access control, camera expansion, replacement, and installation of security vestibules started to move more rapidly.
  • April 2022: The district engaged a security industry expert to conduct a comprehensive assessment of our security status.
  • March 2023: After interviews, site visits, and a plethora of research was conducted, we received a draft of the security assessment report.

What’s happening now?

  • RPS 205 is reviewing recommendations from the security assessment.

What’s next?

  • We are building a multi-year plan stemming from the security assessment. The multi-year plan will include a proposal which will address security personnel, training, policies and procedures, technology, and site and building improvements.
  • Later this month an update will be shared at a Rockford School Board meeting.
  • To hear more about what is coming, listen to the latest podcast on the 205 VIBE: Episode 39: School Safety Update.

Photo of Jason Barthel

Jason Barthel

Jason Barthel is the Chief Information Officer for Rockford Public Schools. He brings more than 20 years of experience in management, strategic technology planning, cybersecurity implementation and infrastructure design. He served honorably in the U.S. Army. He worked closely with law enforcement for more than nine years including participating in emergency operations, incident command, and radio communications planning. He holds degrees in Business Administration, IT Project Management, and Computer Forensics.



Headshot of Fred Diehl

Fred Diehl

Fred Diehl is the Director of Security Services for Rockford Public Schools. He brings more than 40 years of experience in management, security and emergency planning. He served honorably in the U.S. Navy and retired as a Master Chief Petty Officer. He holds degrees in Police Science, Criminal Justice and Leadership Management and is a FEMA-certified Incident Command Instructor.

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