Logan administrators talk with law officers, safety expert about school safety
By Jim Turner

Posted on August 6, 2018 2:23 AM


Two lasting impressions from a closed-door school safety session at Logan County High School Monday on the opening day of Professional Development:

*Countless hours of study, thought and effort have gone into providing Logan County Schools the safest environment possible for students and educators.

*Since so many variables are in play that making a school a completely safe place is virtually impossible, so you just try to get as close as you can.

After he had spoken almost two hours to a gymnasium filled with the system’s teachers, administrators and support personnel, Frank DeAngelis met privately with administrators from the entire system, school board members, and officers from various law enforcement agents serving the county.

DeAngelis has been at the forefront of both school violence and school safety planning. He was the principal at Columbine High School in Littleton, Col. 20 school years ago when two students went on a shooting/murder rampage at the school. He was in the line of fire to become one of their victims, but they chose to turn their guns on another teacher instead. He stayed on as Columbine principal another 15 years before retiring and becoming an in-demand authority on school safety.

Among those joining school administrators in the safety session were Sheriff Wallace Whittaker and some of his deputies, the nominees to replace him as sheriff—Democrat Stephen Stratton and Republican Robbie Matthews, Russellville Mayor Mark Stratton and members of the city police department, and board members Teresa Hendrix and Phil Baker. Logan County Judge-Executive Logan Chick had been in the earlier session.

Superintendent Paul Mullins told attendees that Logan County has attempted to be ‘prudent’ in making plans for stepping up school safety. He called on Central Office administrators Ben Kemplin and Dr. Barry Goley to detail studies which have been made and actions taken in the aftermath of school mass shootings in nearby Marshall County and in Florida.

Kemplin said the following safety precautions are among the steps which have been taken:

*All external doors are to be locked after school starts.

“Visitors who are buzzed in must enter through vestibules and stop in the school offices.

*All buses are equipped with cameras.

*A total of 210 new security cameras have been installed at the schools.

*East school has its own safety plan, and those have been filed with the Logan County Emergency Operations Center where dispatching is centralized.

*School personnel at all seven schools have undergone Active Shooter Training.

*Three School Resource Officers have been employed. They are encouraged to build relationships with students and staff so that they will feel free to talk with officers about concerns.

DeAngelis said that two of the most effective deterrents to people being killed or wounded by shooters is locked classrooms from inside and students letting officials know if they have fears or suspicions about potential shooters or bombers. “The kids need to be the eyes and ears helping officials know what might possibly happen,” DeAngelis said.

Mullins reminded those in attendance that officers are always welcome to stop in any of the county’s schools for breakfast or lunch in an effort for students to get to know them and feel comfortable with them.

Goley told the results of a safety survey conducted by the schools, which produced 757 responses from students, staff and parents. The top four actions which respondents sought:

*increased presence of law officers at the schools

*emergency buttons and phone aps

*metal detectors

*mental health counseling

Three of these are in the works, but DeAngelis and school officials said they don’t believe metal detectors are an effective solution. They cited costs, the difficulty/time consumption of checking those entering the building as the school day begins, difficulty of use during ball games, practices and other off-hours events, and their ineffectiveness.

The story was told of metal detectors being installed at Marshall County following the tragedy there, and one entrant successfully going through detection, even though he had a hunting knife sticking out of his pocket.

There was discussion of problems associated with after-school-hours events. Entrance is much more difficult to monitor and it would be very difficult to prevent students and other attendees from hiding weapons and explosives in the buildings, ready for use when school is in session.

Director of Technology and Chief Information Officer for Logan County Schools Tyler Davenport said there are 74 entrance doors to Logan County’s school. He is overseeing the implementation of all those new cameras and monitoring acces to the buildings.

Work is underway to determine which agencies will be in charge of law enforcement roles during the shootings and while the perpetrator(s) are still active, who will oversee the outlying areas and setting up perimeters, who will be the spokesperson, and more. How to notify parents about what is going on and the safety of their children is also crucial.

Backpacks are an ongoing issue. Whittaker favors clear backpacks. Mullins said ideally each student would have a laptop or ChromeBook. DeAngelis said ideally lockers can be eliminated.

DeAngelis suggested conducting sessions to inform parents about what steps are being taken for school safety. He thinks it is wise to take phones and computers out of children’s bedrooms at night and charge the devices in parents’ bedrooms.

It’s also important to find ways to let students and faculty know when a situation is a drill and when it is the real thing.


Copyright © The Logan Journal 2009 - 2019