TCSS discusses safety

Published 9:32 pm Friday, February 16, 2018

The school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday has started a discussion nationwide about how school systems handle security threats and whether any changes should be made.

Locally, the Troup County School System wants parents to know that it’s reviewing and evaluating its emergency response procedures.

“You all are aware that of the incident that took place in Parkland, Florida yesterday, and I think it’s important for our media and others to understand that we do have safety programs in place here in Troup County,” said assistant superintendent John Radcliffe during Thursday’s school board meeting. “Can you ever totally avoid a situation like that? The answer is no, but we do take every possible precaution to protect our students and our staff.”

Radcliffe said local law enforcement is invited in every year to look at the school system’s security measures. He said the department also uses school buildings as a training site.

The system employs student resource officers at each of the middle and high schools and has placed updated camera equipment and glass security doors at several buildings using education SPLOST funds.

On Wednesday, there was a lot of confusion at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after an active shooter shot and killed 17 students and injured more than a dozen others. Parents were confused about where to go to pick up their kids and to get information.

School board member Brandon Brooks asked Radcliffe during Thursday’s meeting about how the Troup County School System would get information out in a similar emergency.

“The website, that’s not really productive for immediate distribution of information, especially when you’re talking about, God forbid, an active shooter,” Brooks said. “What’s our first response? I’ve got a number of calls on this, that’s what I’m asking.”

Radcliffe said the system would use the automated One Call Now program, which is only utilized in emergency situations. It was most recently used to let parents know about weather days due to snowy weather.

“We don’t use that phone for a band banquet or a rehearsal for a program,” Radcliffe said. “It’s used strictly for emergencies.”

The One Call Now system can be used to send a message directly to parents of one school or one section of schools. Then, it could be used to notify the rest of the school system.

The school system already utilizes security doors at several schools, where parents have to be buzzed in by front desk personnel. LaGrange High School, Callaway High School, Berta Weathersbee Elementary School and Long Cane Middle School are among the schools that use those doors. Radcliffe said in an email Friday that security devices are expected to be installed at all campuses by summer 2018.

“The schools have practiced lock down drills and what to do in the event of an intruder,” Radcliffe emailed Friday. “Classrooms have materials to guide teachers and or substitutes on what to do in the event of an emergency. Administrators have practiced with law enforcement on what to expect and how to react in the event of a school intruder.”

In the event of an active shooter on campus, Radcliffe said every situation is unique. Administrators will use radio, intercom or cell phones to inform each other what is going on at the school.

Radcliffe said safety procedures are reviewed at least annually and that reminders are sent out to faculty members to review safety plans throughout the year.

“We all play an important role in creating a safe learning environment at school, so take a moment today to talk to your child or children about the importance of safety,” the school system wrote on its website Wednesday. “Let them know it is OK to say something if they see something. School is no place for a weapon or anything that can be mistaken as a weapon. Please reinforce these messages with your child.”