Active shooter drills will soon be conducted at New Albany and Union County schools to make sure teachers and students are prepared if an attack did occur.
Under a bill passed last legislative session, school officials must conduct active shooter drills within the first 60 days of each semester.
These drills are a serious matter, and school officials cannot become complacent, said Union County Schools Assistant Superintendent Windy Faulkner.
“We've got to be alert . . .,” she said. “We want our parents and the community to know that safety is our No. 1 priority.”
Union County School District officials plan to meet with local law enforcement and other emergency personnel to discuss what would happen in the event of an active shooter at a school. They will talk about the different roles everyone would have in such an event to make sure everyone is “on the same page,” Faulkner said.
Law enforcement will also be welcome to monitor the active shooter drills, Faulkner said, adding, “We definitely want input from them.”
“We are going to sit down and look at our crisis plans and determine what the role of the school district is, what the role of the law enforcement is, where our command center would be hosted if an event like this happened,” she said.
The Union County School District will actually conduct two active shooter drills. One of the drills will include the students while the other will be for emergency personnel and the teachers.
“The more you practice and go through the routines the better off you'll be,” she noted.
Teachers went through Civilian Response to Active Shooter Event training, and building modifications have also been made to schools to help “ensure a safe campus,” Faulkner added.
Putting the school resource officers at each school in the district is the best measure that has been taken for campus security, she said.
“We have one officer per campus,” she said.
The bill requiring the active shooter drills was a good idea, said Faulkner.
“We're here to keep these students safe,” Faulkner said. “The more things that we can do and implement to keep the kids safe is what we need to be doing.”
The New Albany School District will also conduct active shooter training and drills at each campus.
“Knowing what to do in an emergency is vital, time is of the essence,” a district statement said. “If we can have trained behavior and not chaos we can save lives. The drills mandated by the state are basic, but we plan to go way beyond just a drill; we intend to have trained behavior.”
The training will be ongoing throughout the year and involve parents, students, staff and first responders, New Albany School District officials said.
“The New Albany School District will be working with the entire community to try and protect our most precious commodity,” the statement added. “No area is immune to an active shooter event.”
The goal is to make sure the schools are prepared, said State Rep. Randy Boyd, R-Mantachie, who co-sponsored the bill.
“It's a crazy world out there,” said Boyd.
Nationally, there have been two mass shootings recently — one in Dayton, Ohio and the other in El Paso, Texas. The alleged gunman in Dayton killed nine people while the suspect in El Paso allegedly killed 22.
“We have so much of it going on,” Boyd said. “When I was young that didn't happen.”
It is important to be “vigilant” and “if you see something, say something,” he added.
“That's kind of what we're living by these days,” Boyd said. “This kind of stuff is just very unpredictable.”
The plan is to teach the staff and the students how to respond and protect themselves and others in the event of an active shooter at school, said State Rep. Tracy Arnold, R-Booneville.
“Innocent children” cannot be left “vulnerable,” Arnold said. The recent mass shootings nationally further demonstrate the importance of making sure schools are prepared, Arnold noted.
If people do not think it is going to happen in Mississippi, then they should remember the 1997 Pearl High School shooting, Arnold said.
“It has already happened in Mississippi,” he said. “The whole goal is to preserve life and make sure that all of our staff and students are prepared . . .”
The bill also requires school district employees to undergo training on mental health and suicide prevention.