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In Wake of Uvalde, School System Considering More Resource Officers and Metal Detectors

In Wake of Uvalde, School System Considering More Resource Officers and Metal Detectors Tommy Murphy Staff Writer During the June Troup County Board of Education meeting on Thursday, the board received an update on school safety procedures and potential new initiatives. With school shootings seemingly becoming more and more frequent, School Superintendent Brian Shumate noted that Troup County schools are now in a constant state of “soft lockdown.” It’s a balancing act to allow parents inside schools to participate in their children’s education, but also keep people who potentially want to do harm to students out, said Shumate. “We could lock schools up like a fortress, but that keeps everyone out,” he said. Under the soft lockdown, schools are under heightened security and access to school buildings are limited with only one or two available entrances and all other exterior doors and windows locked. TCSS School Safety Coordinator Steve Heaton provided an update on security measures at schools, such as lockdown drills and security checks. Along with fire and tornado drills, students now have to undergo active shooter drills, classrooms are locked and students hide to avoid a simulated intruder. Law enforcement help conduct these drills and walk through schools to make sure doors are locked and children are out of sight. “They yell, scream and holler, and shake doors,” said Heaton, noting it’s a necessary evil. School safety checks are also conducted at least once a year with the help of law enforcement. Every year they send someone in plain clothes to try to get into the school to test the system. They are usually a new recruit so they aren’t recognized and they see how much access they can get. Police also perform routine walkthrough visits so that officers can be familiar with school layout. Heaton noted that many people assume when they see law enforcement at a school that it’s a bad school, but police presence can be a deterrent to potential threats. Heaton also discussed the implementation Centegix badges. The badges, which are provided to all school employees, can notify school administrators and law enforcement at the touch of a button with a GPS signal. With a few presses, teachers can notify school administrators, or with repeated presses, notify police of an emergency directly. The GPS technology on the badges also allows administrators and officials to know whose badge was activated and where the emergency activation occurred. Heaton suggested adding 11 School Resource Officer positions —one for each elementary school. Secondary schools already gave SROs provided by the LaGrange, Hogansville, West Point Police Departments and Troup County Sheriff’s Office, but their salaries are subsidized by the school system. The 11 new SROs would cost the school system $637,589. Heaton also suggested placing metal detectors at entrances of each school — two per secondary school and one per elementary school. The metal detectors cost from $4,500 to $6,000 per unit. The school system currently has six metal detectors, which are currently being used at The Hope Academy, Troup County Career Center, and for events. Some board members questioned the effectiveness of the metal detectors. They would also need to be staffed in order to be effective. It would potentially require 23 new personnel members to staff the devices at an estimated cost of $920,000 per year. Shumate advised that they are currently looking at adding the resource officers more than the metal detectors. He also noted that hiring 11 new school resource officers could take some time. The author of this article can be reached via email at [email protected]

Tommy Murphy

Staff Writer

During the June Troup County Board of Education meeting on Thursday, the board received an update on school safety procedures and potential new initiatives.

With school shootings seemingly becoming more and more frequent, School Superintendent Brian Shumate noted that Troup County schools are now in a constant state of “soft lockdown.”

It’s a balancing act to allow parents inside schools to participate in their children’s education, but also keep people who potentially want to do harm to students out, said Shumate.

“We could lock schools up like a fortress, but that keeps everyone out,” he said.

Under the soft lockdown, schools are under heightened security and access to school buildings are limited with only one or two available entrances and all other exterior doors and windows locked.

TCSS School Safety Coordinator Steve Heaton provided an update on security measures at schools, such as lockdown drills and security checks.

Along with fire and tornado drills, students now have to undergo active shooter drills, classrooms are locked and students hide to avoid a simulated intruder. Law enforcement help conduct these drills and walk through schools to make sure doors are locked and children are out of sight.

“They yell, scream and holler, and shake doors,” said Heaton, noting it’s a necessary evil.

School safety checks are also conducted at least once a year with the help of law enforcement. Every year they send someone in plain clothes to try to get into the school to test the system. They are usually a new recruit so they aren’t recognized and they see how much access they can get.

Police also perform routine walkthrough visits so that officers can be familiar with school layout. Heaton noted that many people assume when they see law enforcement at a school that it’s a bad school, but police presence can be a deterrent to potential threats.

Heaton also discussed the implementation Centegix badges. The badges, which are provided to all school employees, can notify school administrators and law enforcement at the touch of a button with a GPS signal. With a few presses, teachers can notify school administrators, or with repeated presses, notify police of an emergency directly. The GPS technology on the badges also allows administrators and officials to know whose badge was activated and where the emergency activation occurred.

Heaton suggested adding 11 School Resource Officer positions —one for each elementary school. Secondary schools already gave SROs provided by the LaGrange, Hogansville, West Point Police Departments and Troup County Sheriff’s Office, but their salaries are subsidized by the school system.

The 11 new SROs would cost the school system $637,589.

Heaton also suggested placing metal detectors at entrances of each school — two per secondary school and one per elementary school. The metal detectors cost from $4,500 to $6,000 per unit.

The school system currently has six metal detectors, which are currently being used at The Hope Academy, Troup County Career Center, and for events.

Some board members questioned the effectiveness of the metal detectors. They would also need to be staffed in order to be effective. It would potentially require 23 new personnel members to staff the devices at an estimated cost of $920,000 per year.

Shumate advised that they are currently looking at adding the resource officers more than the metal detectors. He also noted that hiring 11 new school resource officers could take some time.

The author of this article can be reached via email at [email protected]

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