The teen-age boy walks down a deserted school corridor. Before
he goes 10 feet, two teachers ask for his hall pass. Turning a
corner, he's stopped again.
An assistant principal carefully examines the crumpled pass
before letting him continue.
This scene is repeated daily in high schools all over the St.
Louis area, where increased hallway vigilance has become one of the
aftershocks of Christine Smetzer's murder.
Smetzer, 15, was found beaten to death last month in a restroom
at McCluer North High School. Another student is in custody,
accused of her murder.
Principals are reminding teachers to patrol restrooms. Teachers
are more strict about who leaves class early. And students use
buddy systems to keep track of each other.
Teachers and students alike are asking the question: How do you
protect schools and staff from potentially violent students without
turning the school into a prison?
Some of the approaches they suggest include:
- Identifying isolated areas around the schools and making them
- Putting more staff members on patrol.
- Informing staff members about students with a potential for
The 15-year-old suspected of killing Smetzer had a history of
school disciplinary problems and a behavior disorder. Teachers say
they don't get enough information about such students - not nearly
Every school has secluded spots screened from the watchful eyes
of staff, said Franklin McCallie, principal at Kirkwood High
School, which has seven buildings on 47 acres.
Lillie Taylor tells her freshman students at Kirkwood to trust
their instincts. "If you see students acting inappropriately -
cursing, getting into verbal arguments, smoking, whatever - get out
of there and tell an adult," she said.
Lindbergh High School covers 70 acres. Amanda Fox, a senior,
said older students know which restrooms are unsafe. "We know where
the troublemakers end up," she said.
Pattonville High School officials lock some restrooms at
certain hours because they are difficult to supervise.
Schools also are hiring more people whose primary job is to
patrol the campus.
As one of its first responses to Smetzer's murder, the
Ferguson-Florissant School District doubled the security guards at
McCluer North to six and assigned some teachers extra patrolling
Kirkwood has aides called "walking counselors." They don't wear
uniforms or carry guns. "It's a tone and atmosphere they set," said
McCallie, the principal.
Besides talking with students, the walking counselors also stop
strangers, patrol the parking lot, check restrooms and add a
supervising adult to places teachers and administrators are too
busy to watch.
A uniformed security guard stands in the driveway entrance to
the Pattonville High School campus. Last week, he stopped drivers
he had waved through before.
"They're really checking," said Lauren Buckner, a senior at
Pattonville. When Pattonville hired off-duty, uniformed police
officers in 1983, critics complained about the prison atmosphere.
"Now they're just part of the staff," said Bob Benben, assistant
At Lindbergh High School, principal David Skillman said
everyone has to consider security. The school depends on students
to let school officials know about pending trouble or if a stranger
Lindbergh uses one outside security officer. Skillman and four
assistant principals also walk the hallways before and after school
and during the day. A teacher and an aide also have extra hall
Lindbergh students say they support the safety measures. Some
even suggested the district go further by adding more staff in the
hallways during classes to catch wanderers. …