How do local schools’ safety precautions compare to Marshall Co.?

Published 6:46 am Saturday, June 23, 2018

After a fatal school shooting on Jan. 23 in Marshall County, Kentucky, the school district there has taken steps to improve security and prevent another shooting from happening. But how do policies and procedures for school safety in the Danville and Boyle County school districts stack up to what Marshall County has decided to do?

According to an article in The Paducah Sun, the Marshall County School District created a committee to review new polices and implement some of them beginning in August.

Safety is always on the mind of school officials, said Chris Holderman with the Boyle County Schools.

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“Being the school safety officer, you’re always — for the last seven or eight years I’ve been in charge — you always want things safer. I don’t know if you ever reach a 2

Metal detectors and bag searches

For the students at Marshall County High School and the district’s two middle schools, metal detectors will be installed within the next few years. Students at those schools will be prohibited from bringing in backpacks, but can bring sports bags; those bags are subject to searches.

Students at the elementary level will be allowed to carry clear or mesh backpacks.

Holderman said that’s not something that’s happening in Boyle County schools soon, but he could eventually see that being a policy at Boyle County High School.

Things like that take time to change, Holderman said, because they require physical changes to the buildings. In the more immediate future, the schools have reviewed what sort of smaller changes could be made, such as more supervision in the hallways and common areas.

Danville Superintendent Keith Look said he’s not inclined to add metal detectors at a school because it doesn’t greatly increase the safety at the school. He said he has previously worked in a high school that used metal detectors.

Look said metal detectors can become an expensive endeavor because of the extra staff required to man the detectors and conduct searches.

Danville and Boyle County’s school boards view backpacks as part of a dress code policy, placing the decisions about them on the shoulders of the individual school’s councils.

Districts review those policies each year; Holderman said that is subject to change.

He said they’ve never searched students’ bags without just cause, such as during routine school drug checks.

School resource officers

Boyle County uses the Boyle County Sheriff’s Department to provide one school resource officer for the district’s five campuses; Danville has a similar arrangement with the Danville Police Department, which provides coverage of its four campuses.

Marshall County plans to increase the number of its school resource officers from one to five; they will be provided by the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office.

Holderman said that would be a great thing to be able to do.

“I feel good about our school, as far as school safety goes; these types of things can happen anywhere. To think it couldn’t would be a weakness on our part,” he said.

Having that presence, he said, is a deterrent.

Look said he, too, would like to have additional SROs in the district, but he also believes nurses are an important aspect of safety.

“Additional SROs and school nurses would help create a safer environment for students,” he said. “A school nurse has immediate contact with students more often. Their therapeutic approach could reach additional kids.”

But being able to cover the cost of t hose is tricky, as schools aren’t given funding specifically for a safety officer or to help with nurses or mental health specialists, Holderman said.

Holderman said in a climate that has an officer shortage already, finding officers willing to serve as SROs can be an added difficulty.

“Those people are just not out there,” he said.

Cameras and safety entrances

Each school in Marshall County will receive additional or updated camera systems, if needed, and the entrance to the high school will be altered to better control incoming traffic.

Boyle County and Danville districts have cameras in place at all of their schools and both have worked to update those regularly, even before school shootings this year.

The districts also have safety vestibules at all of the schools, the last of them installed over the last few years.

Holderman said card readers have been installed at some of the schools, which allow for greater control of who is entering the buildings.

Ultimately, they said, the goal is to always ensure students are safe.