December 19, 2012

School safety is priority in Laurel

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., last week has spurred numerous debates and concern for the safety of staff and students in the public school settings.

Laurel County Superintendent Doug Bennett said that student safety is the ultimate concern of school officials in the district and procedures are in place to deal with emergency situations.

“We take student safety very seriously,” he said. “We remain committed to ensure a safe and productive environment that is conducive to learning for our students.  We practice multiple safety drills each semester including: fire drills, tornado drills, lockdown drills, bus evacuation drills and tabletop drills for staff and security personnel.”

Although Bennett would not elaborate on specific protocols for emergencies, such as a school shooting, he did state that the emergency management plans for the schools and the school district as a whole is reviewed and updated as necessary.

“ Our Safety Task Force is currently reviewing our Emergency Management Response Plan in the context of the recent tragedy in Connecticut,” Bennett said. “In addition, we will be conferring with local and state law enforcement agencies as well as other first responders to help determine any next steps that may be necessary.

“The Emergency Management Response Plans for each school were recently revised and updated in July 2012,” he added. “ However, together with our district Safety Task Force, we are currently reviewing our Emergency Management Response Plans in the context of the Connecticut tragedy.  In addition, many of our staff members throughout the district have completed extensive training in regards to emergency management and student/school safety.”

Lockdown status would immediately be implemented should an intruder enter the schools, Bennett said.

Currently, all visitors to county schools are required to sign in at the front office. Although many county schools feature double doors, visitors cannot gain access to the school without entering the front office. All exit doors within the schools lock upon closing, obstructing anyone trying to enter the school from any area other than the front office.

“We are steadfast in our diligence to continue making every effort to help keep our students safe at school,” Bennett said.