TUPELO – Three dozen school and community leaders from across Northeast Mississippi gathered Tuesday morning to discuss ways to make their schools safer and more secure.
Lee County Schools Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said he started thinking a few weeks ago when a wave of social media threats of possible violence on campus led to concerns at several schools across the region.
“I don’t feel that we are prepared enough to deal with something like that,” Weeks said. ”We are lacking at some of our facilities.”
To help other districts take a better look at themselves, LCS joined with Pryor-Morrow Architects to bring in Georgia-based youth protection consultant Les Nichols. The School Safety Security Summit drew school leaders from as far away as Holly Springs and Tishomingo County
“You can’t just sit back and react. You have to be strategic and proactive,” Nichols said. “The Five Ds – deter, detect, deny, delay and defend – are not enough.
“You have to anticipate threats and you have to be willing to focus on your vulnerabilities.”
While they have to be prepared for an active shooter scenario, schools are more likely to face things like severe injuries, suicide attempts and even irate parents confronting the front office staff.
“Since every case is different, you have to make your staff competent problem solvers,” Nichols said. “Better preparing them will increase the sense of safety.
“The key to emergency management is communication. That’s not just calling 911. The staff needs to be able to coordinate with each other and communicate with first responders.”
Nichols prefers schools to use radios to communicate. Cell phones may not work in the case of emergencies as students, staff and parents try to make calls and overload cell towers.
Tishomingo County Superintendent Christie Jolly said they are equipping all of their employees with radios to ensure better communication.
Nichols advised the school officials to look at the various scenarios when trying to develop safety plans tailored for their needs. Plans need to be based on effective strategies that are proven and can be measured to show continuous improvement.
“How do you know your plan is working? Because you’ve never had a major incident?” Nichols said. “Just because you are lucky doesn’t mean you plan is good. It just means it is untested.”