On top of establishing a clear bag policy for events within the Lancaster County School District, officials are also ramping up safety measures when school starts back.
“We needed to have a hard reset when it comes to our practices before COVID,” said Bryan Vaughn, district safety director. “We had to vary a lot of things because of COVID.”
Once school starts back, the district will also have signage installed that instructs students and staff on what to do in case of an active shooter. The signs tell students to run, hide and, if needed, fight off an active shooter.
“Philosophy has changed quite a lot,” Vaughn said. “If you go back 10 years ago, it was to hunker down in a classroom and stay there. That mentality has completely changed.
“The run, hide, fight curriculum has been accepted by the federal government; it has been accepted by the state department and all across the country. If you don’t have something to show people what to do, you are putting people at risk.”
The district will also have 14 walk-through metal detectors available by August, as well as handheld detectors available at every school.
“We have put on a full-fledged safety campaign to really up the game and send that message to the public that we really intend to take school safety seriously,” Vaughn said. “We always have, but we are trying to do a hard reset.”
District officials have recently met about four times with local law enforcement and other emergency agencies to plan and coordinate emergency responses at the schools.
The district plans to hold an active shooter simulation at Indian Land High School before school starts with local law enforcement to practice district response.
“From a law enforcement standpoint and our emergency people, we have great communication with them,” Vaughn said. “We have good plans in place.”
Vaughn said signage will be in classrooms for substitutes and others who may not normally be in there to be able to know what to do. Staff emergency training will also be done in August after teachers return, but before school starts.
“We are going to have a section of our classroom where that stuff is stored,” Vaughn said.
“The most important thing is people know what to do. This is more important for staff than kids because the kids are going to be dependent on staff members. If you can’t run, you hide. If you hear gun shots and you are in the classroom and you’ve got to throw them (students) out the window, throw them out the window if you have to. If we can get them out of there, get them out of there. If they (shooters) get in the classroom with you, you’ve got two choices. You can be a victim or you can fight back.”
When it comes to the first line of defense for schools, those are school resource officers (SRO). Officers have been assigned to Indian Land Intermediate, all middle schools and high schools in the district.
The district is searching for funding opportunities to add officers at all elementary schools. Clinton Elementary already has an SRO and this coming school year, North Elementary will be getting an SRO as well.
“This is going to be a good thing for North Elementary School,” Vaughn said. “I feel like we are heading in the right direction. I think we have things in place.”
The district has also ordered 100 new walkie-talkies at a cost of $60,000 and plans to increase the number of random searches with gun- and drug-sniffing dogs.
Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Phipps said he feels like the district is doing the right things.
“We have been ahead of the curve in doing what we need to do to protect kids,” he said.
Vaughn added that parents should look for stronger security at things like open houses and other school-related events, where there are a lot of people at the school during non-school hours.
Follow Mac Banks on Twitter @MacBanksFM or contact him at 803-339-6867.