The Floyd County Board of Education met Tuesday morning to discuss possible measures aimed at strengthening school security, among them allowing specific educators access to firearms securely kept on campuses should an active shooter situation arise.
The discussion — which followed the deadly shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school last week — also touched on stationing police officers and implementing a tiered-entry system at each Floyd County school, along with increasing the number of counselors and developing open communication with students, who may be the first to see or hear of a potential threat.
No action was taken on what was discussed, rather the school system will further research the matters and reconvene with board members to share their findings during the March 6 board meeting.
The system’s attorney, King Askew, addressed the possibility of arming educators and what the law allows. As a general rule, he said having guns at school, events or on buses is prohibited, with certain exceptions, namely school resource officers.
However, Askew said the board could authorize, through a written policy, for certain individuals in a school to have access to firearms. These individuals would be subject to annual criminal history checks and psychological evaluations, as well as undergoing training, including marksmanship and judgmental pistol shooting — the statute on the matter does not state the level of training required. They must also have a gun permit.
Additionally, Askew said firearms at the school should be kept in a lock box which is not easily accessible by students.
Board member Jay Shell had raised the possibility, along with adding officers, in a Facebook post Saturday, wanting the system to take a proactive approach in bolstering school security.
“It’s got to stay at the forefront of our minds,” Shell said, adding that Americans cannot become numb to school shootings.
“It is a discussion we ought to have,” said Tony Daniel, vice chairman of the board, adding that training to the level police undergo would be needed, so as not to create issues beyond the one they are trying to solve. “It’s not black and white. It’s a big gray area.”
Floyd County Sheriff Tim Burkhalter pledged his office would assist in training educators. He, along with board members, also mentioned the need to foster relationships with students so they feel comfortable in coming forward with information on a potential threat.
“They see the signs,” he said. “We have to learn their language.”
Board members expressed a need for further input from the stakeholders in schools and community members on the matter, with Melinda Jeffers suggesting town hall meetings. Board Chairman Chip Hood emphasized students must be included in the conversation as they can play a critical role in security.
“We all have to take responsibility for this,” Daniel added. “There’s not a one size fits all.”
Editor’s note: A follow-up to this report will run in Thursday’s Rome-News Tribune and will focus on security measures Floyd County Schools currently has in place and ones they are working to implement.