By Rob McDaniel
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Last year, in an attempt to make Laurel County School District a safer place for students to learn and grow, Laurel County Superintendent Doug Bennett implemented the Laurel County School Safety Task Force.
The task force, comprised of local law enforcement, first responders and various school administrators and staff, was assigned developing procedures and coordinating together to make schools as safe as possible.
According to Bennett, the task force meets frequently to develop individual safety plans for each school as well as to revise the plans as needs change.
“Safety is dynamic; it’s always changing” Bennett said. “A good safety plan is never finished. It has to be responsive to the emerging safety and security needs of the day. It’s impossible to have a standardized plan across the board because every school has different needs.”
Part of the safety plan, which Bennett refused to give specific details on, includes surveillance systems, walkthroughs, security vestibules, and faculty and staff training.
“It’s important to maintain the safest possible environment for students and staff while maintaining the focus of students, faculty and staff on student learning,” Bennett said.
According to Bennett, safety became a concern for the district in the aftermath of several school shootings that happened across the U.S. in the last few years.
Bennett continued by saying no one wants their school to be among those who have fallen victim to the pain that so many have experienced through school violence, but it’s important to be prepared.
In an effort to be prepared, the London Police Department has sent 25 of their 35 officers to rapid response training and one officer was sent to advanced rapid response training. In addition, one officer completed training as a Rapid Response Coordinator.
According to London Police Major Derek House, officers from the LPD and the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office try to keep a strong presence in the schools.
“Officers visit each school as often as possible,” House said. “They periodically walk through the schools while on duty. We have several D.A.R.E. officers that are in the schools regularly during the year and have two School Resource Officers.”
School Resource Officers are full-time, regularly patrolling and visiting all the schools in Laurel County. According to House, London has two full-time SROs and six other officers that are trained to fill an SRO position if needed.
In addition, law enforcement and first responders conduct training at various schools throughout the year.
“We don’t just do all our training at one facility,” House said. “Since every school is different, we make sure to train at several locations through the year.”
With the effort from law enforcement and school staff, Bennett said he feels the schools are safe, citing the fact they haven’t had an incident yet.
He quickly added, he sincerely hopes they never do.