Local Group Formed to Enhance School Safety

Community members have formed “Iowans Protecting Our Children” as a way to advocate for additional measures to be taken towards school safety.


THE KEY TO COMING HOME – Junior Joshua Smith holds signs promoting IPOC. Smith and his family started the group as a way to advocate for a more secured entryway in the schools.

In consideration of recent school shootings that have taken place in the country, a local group called “Iowans Protecting Our Children,” or IPOC, has gotten together and formed a plan to help secure the schools. Junior Joshua Smith helped organize this group after discussing the Parkland, Fla. shooting with his mother. They felt as though they could do more in the community to help, and wanted to make a difference.

The group began as just Smith’s family but has now grown to about 30 members. In order to join, a person can show up to one of the regular meetings. Smith usually posts on social media where the meeting will be held and said, “Anyone who is able to come can come to those meetings.” In the past, they have been held at the Family Table, but IPOC is currently trying to find a different setup such as a church or a building to accommodate their growing numbers. “I just wish that any student or teacher who wants to come to a meeting will come,” Smith said. There has not been a date set for the next meeting.

Securing the school is the main goal of IPOC. They have shared the idea of placing metal detectors in the entryways of each building in the district so there would be a double-door system. “Mainly it’s just an extra measure than what we have right now,” Smith said. Currently there are locked approaches for all of the buildings in the Atlantic Community School District as well as cameras in several places. According to Superintendent Steve Barber, the student handbooks are analyzed every year and the safety policies and procedures are reviewed and adjusted if necessary.

All staff members and any new employees receive ALICE training from local officers, and there is also a plan to engage Schuler and the middle school in some type of a drill situation using an active shooter model. “We continue to look at ways to work together to ensure that all of our students and staff are aware of what we need to do in case an event occurs,” Barber said.

We’re not trying to make it seem like anyone’s in prison, we’re just trying to make the school a safer place

— Josh Smith, IPOC

Smith said he would like people to know IPOC isn’t “going against the school or trying to take guns away.” “We’re not trying to make it seem like anyone’s in prison, we’re just trying to make the school a safer place,” Smith said. He feels as though Channel Six News “misconstrued” what they were trying to do for the school district. They would like anyone with concerns or questions to come to a meeting for things to be made clear or answered.

So far the group has received mixed responses from the public about their objectives. According to Smith, the way it was portrayed on the news leads most people to assume the only purpose is to place metal detectors in the schools. “It’s either you’re on board or you’re not,” Smith said. Barber said more research is being done to find other possible safety alternatives to metal detectors.

IPOC is aiming to grow out to all of Iowa after starting small in Atlantic. They want to raise awareness and allow everyone to have their voice heard. The group has been promoting their slogan as “Key to the Future,” with plans to sell t-shirts, bumper stickers, and a keychain necklace as a way to raise money for the metal detectors and other security measures for the school. They also have a GoFundMe page. They would like to collect enough so the school would not have to be concerned about cost.

I want everyone to feel safe as they walk in these buildings each and every day.

— Superintendent Steve Barber

According to Barber, cost is not the only consideration. There are also logistics such as having someone run the machine as well as what procedures would need to be taken by students. “At this time, I guess I would say more information is needed to see if that would be a part of our security plan,” Barber said. “I want everyone to feel safe as they walk in these buildings each and every day.”