Graves Co. Schools Safety Task Force discusses training, drills | News
GRAVES COUNTY, KY (KFVS) - The Graves County Schools Safety Task Force met recently to discuss four questions:
1. What safety procedures does the district already have in place?
2. What recent changes have been made?
3. What would the district like to have?
4. What does the district need to know?
A wide range of people attended the meeting, representing various aspects of the community, including law enforcement and first responders, health care and medical services, communication, churches, the school district, and Second District Sate Rep. Richard Heath and First District State Senator Stan Humphries.
Safety procedures already in place include a structure of people, duties, and protocols determined through previous planning. For example, some 17 administrators have been trained in National Incident Management Systems through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Safety measures on-site include buzz-in systems at most schools, entry/exit sign-in procedures, surveillance cameras at Graves County High School, and communication and collaboration among the school district and law enforcement and first responders.
Recent changes include district and school walk-throughs, buzz-in systems at three additional schools; and a district-wide plan for communicating during a crisis.
The district’s wish list includes buzz-in with video at all schools, surveillance cameras at all schools, panic buttons for front offices, and additional security guards.
Assistant Superintendent/director of pupil personnel Jennifer Smith presented a PowerPoint reviewing the four questions and many answers determined from previous work on school safety. The greatest part of the meeting included conversation and interaction about what the district needs to know in looking to the future.
Those topics included Kentucky State Police sharing that organization’s knowledge and experience, including through mock scenarios; adding an intercom to the buzz-in systems; protecting and reassuring students; offering the chance for those with knowledge of a possible problem to “text-a-tip,” rather than sharing the information with friends through social media such as Facebook and texting; distributing a wish list to the community for possible financial backing; potentially raising funds through benefits and foundations; making law enforcement’s presence in buildings more common and positive; and resisting the temptation to become complacent.
“I’m very pleased and excited that so many people from all parts of the community participated and contributed ideas,” Smith said. “We can do so much more when we make connections and work together. I’m grateful for that participation.”
“Active shooters in schools are pretty much a U.S. phenomenon. That strikes me as very odd,” Lt. Brent White said after the meeting. He serves as operations officer of KSP Post 1, located just north of Mayfield. “There’s not a specific profile. Shooters are not all of one age group, gender, or ethnicity for a person who decides to go into a school and harm others.”
White continued, “The first line of defense is the faculty and staff. More of our staff need to be crisis-intervention trained. Some of the best training is for recognizing, identifying, and communicating with people suffering from a mental crisis, not just mental illness. Once we’ve been able to train our own KSP personnel, our people are able to identify that the person is dealing with mental health issue, not just obstinence. Train the adults to react under stress to put them into a position to succeed and survive. I think we need to seriously look at hardening our school facilities as well. You don’t want to make a school into a prison, but you can do some very simple things to make it harder for people to get into a school.”
“Sometimes we tend to get complacent,” said Joseph Williams of Williams Christian Counseling Center. He was among those in attendance who addressed the mental state of perpetrators in public shootings. After the meeting, he explained, “We need to avoid complacency. With many of these disturbed individuals, warning signs were out there before the incident happened. We need to ask, ‘Does this person have a problem and what can we do? How can we help?’ It’s important to be proactive, rather than ignoring it. Denial also is a problem. We have to confront reality. With all the other duties we have, we have to make time for attempting prevention, when faced with potential future problems.”
“I think everybody is on the same team and everybody wants what’s best for our kids in community,” said Graves County Schools food services director Shelina McClain. “No matter what role they play, I think everybody wants to work with the school district, but they want to let the district, with its expertise, figure out what is best for each school.”
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