Preventing another Uvalde from happening in Meade County: The human factor

CHAD HOBBS

Editor


As this series continues, the human factor has to be mentioned. No matter how great the hardware and technology that has been discussed over the past few weeks is in the schools, its effectiveness is totally reliant upon the humans responsible for ensuring the safety plan is strictly adhered to and that everyone from the students to the faculty are well versed in their roles within the system. Drills have long been a part of school systems for very good reason — better to be safe than sorry. Some of you may remember the drills done in schools during the Cuban missile crisis when students and staff drilled on what to do should the USSR and the USA start firing nuclear missiles at each other. Some of you may remember the New Madrid fault line scare of the 80s when earthquake drills began to pop into school emergency drill training. And many of us have all taken part in the fire and tornado drills that have long been the two hallmark drills of a school year, no matter where you went to school. The increase in school shootings has made active shooter training with staff and lockdown procedure training with students a part of routine emergency drills that take place in Meade County schools, multiple times a year. Parents often wonder what goes on when teachers and other faculty have in-service days when students are not in school. There is a myriad of things that take place on those days, but active shooter training is part of it. It does no good to train students if the staff isn’t well trained first. Plus, when there are students ranging in age from 4 years old to 18 or 19 years old spread across the school facilities in the county, age-appropriate training is a must as well. Just as a t-ball coach and a Babe Ruth baseball coach are teaching their athletes to catch the same fly ball but one talks about “alligator chomping” and the other barks “cover up the ball or your running”, the school district must approach the way they teach a preschooler and high school senior to understand lockdown drills in much different ways. “We train students and staff, and we regularly drill and keep documents of those drills,” explained Associate Superintendent Bill Adams. “Everyone drills, but it just varies. There are some that are staff only, and some are written as age appropriate. So, the preschoolers and kindergartners get it, but they get it in an age-appropriate fashion compared to the high schoolers.” According to Martin and Adams, when the latest safety legislation went into place, the state of Kentucky hired a School Security Marshal, who divided the state into approximately 13 regions which each have a security marshal assigned to them. The marshal assigned to Meade County’s region comes on site, walks around all the district’s facilities and performs a safety audit. After independently walking through the buildings, reviewing drill logs, checking doors and noting other requirements, the marshal issues a review and suggestions. “We are excited and really proud that all of our reports every year have come back glowing in that we are not only meeting our compliance efforts but exceeding them,” Adams said. “This marshal has written ‘You follow protocols to the letter of the law, and I feel really safe here’. So, we feel really good that the outside eyes feel we are doing well. When outside eyes come in with an eye for safety and give us these kinds of reviews that matters!” The beauty of the conversation, though, is the fact that the leaders of the Meade County School District are not just content with meeting requirements and receiving glowing reviews. They want to be at the forefront with safety protocols which leads them to embrace any suggestions, even when they are not required by mandates. “Anytime they give us a suggestion, we do it,” Martin explained. “A year and a half ago, we were in compliance. They had limited feedback, but they encouraged us to have a lock on the front of the Meade County High School gym doors. We did it right away. They are the experts, so, when they give us advice like that, we are quick to implement it.” Martin says now, when he goes into the high school, he must have a key to even get in the gym when classes are is in session, even though two to three years ago, he could walk right into the gym. “If you think about how many kids are in there for P.E., it’s a lot. I know that sometimes, it frustrates some parents that it takes them a while to get into a school and they have to pick up a child,” Martin said “Well, it should be hard. It should be hard to get into the school, and if you think about it from that perspective, it’s not an inconvenience. It’s an investment in safety. We have to make sure all of our students and employees are as safe as possible.” Like an onion, this is the third attempt in this series to pull back all the layers of the Meade County School District’s comprehensive safety plan, but the core still is not in sight. School Resource Officers, mental health, positive student connections and parents’ roles have yet to be discussed. There’s still a way to go in adequately covering the comprehensive safety plan, but hopefully, you are beginning to appreciate not just the breadth of school shootings prevention, but also, the lengths our local leaders are going to not just meet mandates but exceed and lead in child safety. Stay tuned next week as the series continues exploring what is being done by the Meade County School District in this age of school shootings.

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