Education

A review of school security was underway the same day as news of other school shootings broke.

The Polk School District is looking to take additional actions to ensure that students and educators feel safe in their classrooms, including new collaborative efforts with law enforcement on the local, state and national level. The district published a letter on their website on Friday to assure parents that plans are being made to provide additional security measures in the 11 schools in Polk County.

Superintendent Laurie Atkins said staff from the Polk School District central office administration were in the midst of meeting when news broke about the tragic shooting death of 14 students and three educators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was happening.

An additional meeting took place on Feb. 23 with law enforcement from local police departments, the Georgia State Patrol and Federal Bureau of Investigation to go over the measures that can be go above what the plans in place for school security.

Atkins said the school district wished to limit the information about security plans for the purposes of ensuring student safety, but following their initial review saw ways “that we need to ramp up our security.” However, the school district will be undergoing training and drills for active shooters within the administration and staffs at schools, with the help of police officers to develop best practices in responding to those situations.

Administrators have already gone through a round of “Stop the Bleed” training with the help of Redmond Emergency Medical Services personnel in past months, and will soon be providing that training to teachers with the help of Floyd Healthcare’s nursing program within the schools.

“Stop the Bleed” is a program that trains people on how to administer first aid for serious wounds to help reduce blood loss and keep people alive before paramedics can arrive to provide additional treatment. Tourniquet kits were given out as part of previous training as well.

Some additional important updates Atkins also talked about was a new notification system for administrators, teachers and law enforcement will be able to utilize during incidents to allow for an immediate response, and also using notification systems, social media and e-mail to keep parents and guardians informed of what is happening.

Some security updates have already taken place in past years, with spending from the 2014 Education only, Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax fund used to improve security camera systems at several schools, and to upgrade locks for doors for several elementary schools that required visitors to wait for officials to use electronic-controlled locks to get into buildings.

All visitors to schools are required to sign in at the front office and announce their purpose, as well as wear a badge around the school during their time in the building.

Atkins also is seeking to get more individuals into schools for security, among many other items that can be addressed but were not included in the letter. School Resource Officers from the Cedartown and Rockmart Police departments security at both middle and high schools in the district.

Not all the security measures can be provided for within the walls of a school building. In the letter, Atkins called on parents and guardians to get involved in the process as well by keeping up with what their children are seeing online, and encouraged parents and students to report behavior and social media posts that threaten to harm or bully others. A anonymous and secure notification system for reporting issues will be added to the district and school websites.

The hopes are to catch problematic and threatening behavior before it spirals out of control and get those students the help they need. Atkins said ensuring that students mental health is being addressed is the main goal of the partnership between the district and Willowbrooke at Tanner.

“It is our goal always to ensure that not only the academic needs of a child are being addressed, but the whole needs of a child,” Atkins said.

The district’s letter also encourages parents to have an age-appropriate conversation with their children about school security, and also to caution youth to never post anything that could be construed as threatening or taking part in cyber-bullying.