School Safety - THE Top Priority


Security of students, buildings crosses jurisdictional lines, D56 Trustees are told


At the forefront of the news today, school safety was a presentation topic last Monday during the District 56 Board of Trustees meeting.

Meeting in the Clinton Middle School media center, and after hearing student presentations from CMS and Clinton High School, the board turned its attention to an essential question - How safe are our schools?

“Crisis management is at the forefront of the news. We want to support the schools any way we can,” Laurens County Emergency Management Director Joey Avery said. Part of that support is law officers and first responders knowing what schools look like - tours were held Thursday at Joanna Woodson Elementary and Clinton Elementary, completing the District 56 school tours schedule. District 55 schools will be toured in March and April.

By touring, first responders know the “nooks and crannies” that each school has, along with potential danger spots. Avery said school security reviews also are being provided to private schools.

“When we cross jurisdictional boundaries, all schools are safer,” Assistant Superintendent for Operations Dr. David Pitts said.

Laurens County first responders and school officials for the past two and a half years have participated in school security briefings at Columbine High School in Colorado. A school massacre there prompted a shift away from “duck and cover” to active confrontation as a way to counter-act people who bring guns into schools with the intent of killing people.

Avery called the training “impactful” and urged the school board to designate a member to attend this summer (July 8-11). 

In the second local group to go through the program at Columbine, Clinton High School Principal Maureen Tiller said of the training, “I’ve thought about that a lot the last two weeks.”

On Feb. 14, 17 people were killed when a lone gunman - an expelled student - shot up a school in Parkland, Florida. The gunman left the scene, and was arrested without incident about a mile and a half away from the school. The massacre has prompted a discussion about limits on semi-automatic, assault-style rifles and the “bump stocks” that allow gunmen to fire more bullets rapidly. President Trump has said he may favor limits on “bump stocks,” and the Dick’s Sporting Goods company has said it will discontinue the sale of these guns.

At the Columbine training, Tiller said, “They de-brief you on how to fix problems. I recommend it for SROs (school resource officers) and administrators in charge of safety. It is an amazing experience.”

District 56 and 55 teachers have gone through a form of ALICE/SAFE training on how to deal with active shooter situations. The training needs to be offered consistently, board member Tammy Stewart said, because there are always new teachers coming into the districts. Avery agreed, saying, “You have to practice how you play.”

Training for teachers follows the Standard Response Protocol. A fact sheet about the protocol said, “A critical ingredient in the safe school recipe is the classroom response to an incident at school. Weather events, fire, accidents, intruders and other threats to student safety are scenarios that are planned and trained for by students, teachers, staff and administration.” Four main areas make up the standard protocol:

-- Lockout, secure the perimeter for a threat outside the building;

-- Lockdown - locks, lights, out of sight - for a threat inside the building;

-- Evacuate to a location, when it is called for to move from one location to another; and

-- Shelter, for a hazard using safety strategies when personal protection is necessary. 

Pitts said, “Each one of us must be the eyes and ears of our schools. The safety of our students is our number one priority.”

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