Are Our Schools Prepared?
By Wane A. Hailes
In the wake of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida we sat down with Mercedes Parham, Communications Director with the Muscogee County School District to find out how safe our children are here in Columbus, Georgia.
Courier: What policies and procedures are in place in case of a shooting at one of our schools?
Parham: Every school has a building leader who has undergone a number of trainings in coordination and under the advisement of our local law enforcement agencies, which includes homeland security. We work closely with them evaluating each year to determine best practices for a variety of potential situations.
Courier: With most of the school shootings after the incident students have come forward to share stories of how they had long been aware of suspicious, abusive or at the very least questionable behavior by the suspect. How does the school district address information they may receive from students about another student who they suspect is in possession of a weapon on campus?
Parham: We take every threat seriously that we receive from any number of entities. Whether a student, administrator or parent brings it to our attention we take immediate action by contacting the appropriate agency for investigation. We are aware that today many law enforcement agencies monitor social media. At the same time we ask our students if you hear or read something on social media that you may feel is disturbing please let a school administrator know.
Courier: As parents we place our children in the hands of schoolteachers every day. In all honesty how safe are our children when they are in your care?
Parham: As much as we would like to, we cannot guarantee the safety of any ones child. We can try to provide the best learning environment for our students, we can mitigate safety concerns but if someone is determined to create an issue we are going to do our best to react appropriately and have the proper professionals in place to mitigate any further risk. And as I alluded to earlier, we realize none of these things happen in an isolated vacuum so we ask that parents and students be vigilant in monitoring. Students if hear something, see something, say something. Whether they are joking or not we are not going to perceive it as a joke, we are going to consider it as a threat and take appropriate action. we would rather err on the side of caution than to do nothing and be faced with a tragedy.
Courier: If by chance a school is faced with a shooting incident parents are going to be concerned about their child and immediately come to the school. What is the schools policy regarding that?
Parham: Of course in any event such as a shooting or even extremely inclimate weather we are sensitive to the parents concern for the safety of their child. However it is important to know that we have a system in place that notifies parents in case of emergencies in our schools. It is important to note that parents would be notified where to go in case of such an incident. In most cases it may not be at your child’s specific school but an area nearby. This is not only for the child’s safety but the parents as well. There have been incidents where parents have come to pick their child up because of impending tornadoes and both the child and parents ended up being on lockdown inside the school.