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School board considers adding more security officers

by Amber McDown

Safety on our school’s campuses was the main discussion at the school board meeting on Monday. 

In the wake of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, school board members and staff have all been evaluating the safety protocols that are already in place and considering new additions. 

Ursula Hullaby, the Safe and Drug-Free Schools supervisor, spoke during the liaison report, saying, “We visit our schools multiple times a day, reminding our people about the importance of being safe. We are trying to make sure that we are very diligent and intentional in our safety rules, regulations, and protocols. We know we are not exempt.”

Superintendent Johnny Rowland added, “The day after that [Uvalde shooting], we met and put together a checklist and reminders of things that our schools need to pay attention to, and sent that out just to make sure we’re doing all we can.” 

Safety measures have already been in place on Webster’s campuses. Many schools have restricted entry, where a person must be “buzzed in” to enter. For several years it has been a policy that teachers must keep classroom doors locked, and windows must either be covered or have privacy tint. Students and teachers engage in lockdown drills. These are only a few examples.

Many, but not all, of the schools have a School Resource Officer (SRO). Vice President Charles Strong suggested that more SROs be added, saying, “I think, as we have the opportunity to, we would be well-served to investigate the possibilities of adding security personnel as often as we can at as many campuses as we can. There’s nothing like on-site security.”

Board member Jerry Lott agreed, adding, “I think that the greatest trouble we could get into is to have an incident at one of our campuses where there was no SRO officer at all. I know we have at least one school where one [SRO] covers two schools. Well, one can’t cover two schools. If they’re at one school, then the other school is without.”

“When we talk about adding someone,” President Fred Evans said, “I want to be sure that these people are certified law enforcement people. And that they have weapons training so they could react appropriately and timely in the event that something should take place. I feel strongly about it. It’s not going to do us any good if we have someone who’s not qualified. I just want to make sure that they’re truly qualified to handle the job. Because you’ve seen the problems that they’ve had — about not going in in a timely basis — and I would fully expect that, if we have people on the campus and something is breaking loose, I would expect that person to react quickly so that they could minimize injury to anyone on campus.”

Superintendent Rowland spoke of how grateful he was to hear these comments, since he and Assistant Superintendent Kevin Washington had already been discussing the same thing. 

All SROs currently employed by the Webster Parish School District are either sheriff’s deputies or officers in the Minden Police Department. These people must requalify each year.

While having an armed officer on campus can bring a sense of security as well as providing a lethal tool if needed, simple day-to-day measures can create secure environments. Paying attention to who is on campus and not letting visitors wander the halls unescorted helps everyone to know who should or should not be there. Keeping doors locked keeps people from freely accessing rooms. Keeping windows covered keeps outsiders from knowing what is going on behind closed doors. Most, if not all, of these measures are already in place in our schools. 

“Our people are doing an excellent job at it. We just need to remain vigilant and intentional about what we’re doing,” said Hullaby.

School board meetings occur monthly and are open to the public. The next meeting will be held at the school board office at 6 p.m. on July 11.

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