In the aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting that claimed the lives of 26 children and teachers, local schools and school districts have begun reviewing and looking to update their own safety procedures.
Each Kentucky school district and each school in those districts required to have crisis plans in place in case of events for such events as school shootings.
The state law requiring crisis plans was passed in 1998.
“It made me want to come in Monday morning and hug all our students,” said Pineville Independent Schools Superintendent Terry Hayes, reflecting on the emotions he had following the horrific tragedy that has created much sympathy for the families and the Newton community and concerns for school safety across the country. “It hit home for me.”
Hayes stated the main goal for Pineville Independent Schools is to keep the students safe.
“That is our number one priority,” said Hayes.
Hayes said safety is something that is mentioned daily. Hayes stated he sent out an email following the shooting telling staff to review the school and district emergency plan. He also walked around the school and checked for safety.
“When something like this happens, it heightens awareness,” said Hayes.
At Pineville, every door is locked so no one can enter from the outside, he said. The front lobby also has a system where people have to push the buzzer before entering the school. Cameras are placed at the front door and every exterior door, so the office can see who is asking to enter the building.
“The buzzer is very beneficial,” said Hayes.
Hayes also stated parents need to drop their children off at the front office during the morning.
“We want to keep the school parent friendly,” said Hayes.
Middlesboro Independent School District Superintendent Rita Cook said everyone is suppose to sign in at the front desk before entering the building.
Middlesboro High School has a buzzer system, according to Cook.
Similar to Pineville and many schools in Kentucky, exterior doors are locked throughout the school, she said.
Cook also said teachers are encouraged to lock the doors to the classrooms to make sure no one enters them.
Cook also said teachers and staff are with the students at all time.
At the elementary schools, Cook said the principals watch the back doors during the morning. There is a monitor at Middlesboro Primary School that keeps watch of the front door.
“Unfortunately, this is a new thing in our society,” said Cook. “(Schools) were not a place people went to cause injury (in the past).”
Cook said the district may have to look at increasing security within the school system.
“There is no way to completely guarantee that no one will enter a school,” said Cook, echoing a statement made by Jon Akers from the Kentucky Center for School Safety shortly after the Connecticut shooting last Friday.
Bell County Superintendent Yvonne Gilliam stated there is no uniform safety policy for her district. She said Bell Central and Bell High were built years before the individual elementary schools.
She also said when Bell Central and Bell High were constructed, school safety was not as prevalent as it is today.
The two schools were not built in a way that visitors are required to go through the office before entering the school, she said.
At the individual elementary schools, visitors must go through the office before entering the school. Gilliam stated there is a facility planning committee meeting coming up soon. She said there will be plans to increase safety at Bell Central and Bell High discussed at that time.
She said there is a safety review in the works for the schools and recommendations will be made.
Each of the local school districts do have resource officers within the district.
Anthony Cloud is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 606-248-1010, ext. 208.