With most of America still in disbelief on the heels of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children, 6 adults and the shooter dead Dec. 14, the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office is stepping up its efforts in the county should a similar incident occur.
“The Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office is already working on its own response plan. We have requested (site) plans for each of the 12 schools, and we will be meeting and developing a plan to address an active shooter,” said Capt. Jim Corder of the GCSO.
Corder said soon as Sheriff Morris Young, who has been out of the office with pneumonia, returns, more detailed meetings will begin.
“I have not met with the superintendent of schools. I met Bruce James by telephone today; I guess he will be the school board’s safety officer,” Corder said.
Shaia Beckwith, spokeswoman for the school district said there are plans to revisit safety initiatives within the school in light of the events of Dec. 14.
“There are components of an active shooter incident such as the way the schools are built, but I’m sure the superintendent will be discussing it (safety) at the Dec. 18 school board meeting,” she said.
According to Beckwith, the district has no individual dedicated to school safety, but she believes the superintendent also plans to address that issue with the board.
Quincy Police Chief Walt McNeil said he spoke to his officers about the recent incident and asked them to be on high alert.
“I have not spoken directly with the superintendent, Mr. James, but I have asked our officers to visit all five schools in the city limits. We have pulled up maps of the various schools, and Officer Mike Wallace met with the faculty and staff at Carter-Parramore Academy,” he said.
Barkley Security, which has a contract with several schools to provide security in addition to school resource officers, has also met with their employees.
“We’ve asked them to monitor anyone who comes to the campus more closely. We’re talking to them about this (recent tragedy), and they are all on high alert,” said Robert Barkley Sr., owner of the company.
Kevin Forehand, principal at Crossroad Academy, said parents can go to their website to access the safety plans at www.mycasc.com
On Dec. 17, Gov. Rick Scott called on all school leaders to review emergency procedures and devise methods for enhancing security in their schools. He also, according to a press release distributed by his office, encouraged leaders to communicate with families the current safety procedures and the additional actions schools are taking to enhance safety and protection for students.
“Following the tragedy in Connecticut, I join parents everywhere who want to make sure our students are safe. To better protect Florida’s children, I’m asking Florida school districts to review their emergency plans and procedures and work alongside the Department of Education, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and local law enforcement to review and enhance on-campus emergency plans to ensure the safety and well-being of our students. School should be a sanctuary for learning and creativity where students, teachers and parents feel safe,” Scott said.
In 2001, the Florida Legislature passed the Safe Passage Act, requiring every district to have a clearly directed safety and security program that includes comprehensive plans with input from parents, community representatives, local emergency agencies, teachers, staff and students. Each year, districts must assess and update their emergency plans using a comprehensive assessment tool, according to the Governor’s Office.
In 2003, the DOE adopted a statewide policy detailing school preparation and response to emergencies and threats of violence. The DOE Office of Safe Schools works with districts to implement safety objectives, including:
* Limiting school entry points
* Inspecting school grounds daily for suspicious persons
* Establishing communication procedures for alerting parents
* Enhancing police patrol of campus during peak times of traffic and activity.
Corder said the GCSO’s school safety plan will be fully developed. Anyone with questions should call him at 251-5519.