In light of the Sandy Hook School shooting last month, the Fayette County Board of Education heard a report on school safety and security by the county’s operations director at its Tuesday meeting.
Ron Cantley says “keeping our eye on the academic ball” can have a “profound” effect on school safety.
“It’s tempting to take our eye off the ball of our tasks of educating students when we get nervous about safety and security,” he said. “Frustrated students respond with rage. (...) The more successful students we can have, the better off we are.”
He also said that the county hopes to increase the trained law enforcement in schools who can deter and professionally react to any crisis.
One Prevention Resource Officer (PRO) from the Fayette County Sheriff’s department currently works at Oak Hill High School. A line item in the county’s proposed excess levy would fund another PRO officer.
At December’s board meeting, board member David Arritt said that arming principals and teachers with guns might help secure schools.
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Reactions to the comments on social media ranged from enthusiastic agreement to disgust.
Josette White of Hico is a mother of two who comes from a family of avid hunters. While she is far from anti-gun, she doesn’t believe teachers and principals should be armed.
“I have been around guns all my life, and I teach my kids all about them. (...) But we are just fighting fire with fire in this case,” she says.
“Say somebody does come into the schools and they do have to fire. What’s to say they’re not going to hit a student?”
She does say she would support building fences with armed guards to “stop anything from coming into the school.”
Other parents say that installing bulletproof glass, providing crisis management training or upping support for mental health professionals are all measures that should be considered before the arming of employees.
Still others say that increased school security should be the last on a list of many other needed changes in the school system.
In 2011, every school in the county underwent a School Safety and Vulnerability Assessment that gave feedback to administrators on how to address security vulnerabilities.
Cantley hopes to have all principals participate in an online “active shooter training” from the Department of Homeland Security.
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Parent Joseph Dangerfield urged the public to vote ‘yes’ on the proposed excess levy, which comes up for vote Feb. 9.
“Voting yes does not mean that our taxes will increase,” he told the board. “What it does mean, however, is that our children will continue to be offered free textbooks, free breakfast and lunch for all students, athletic bus trip support, science and math support, music and art support, as well as 22 other very important items, including professional salary support for our teachers.”
If approved by voters, the excess levy would provide the school system with $9,271,245 per year for five years, supporting approximately 30 programs.
Citizens of Fayette County have traditionally approved the levy, so they would not see their taxes increase from the measure.
Early voting runs from Jan. 28 through Feb. 6.
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Board member Lou Jones expressed the need for a football field at Valley High School. The school does not have a field and last season used the one at WVU Tech in Montgomery, which Jones says is inadequate.
“Who is responsible for supplying the school a football field?” she asked. “All the other schools have football fields, and Valley doesn’t.
“The citizens of the Valley district (want some answers. I’m relaying the message to the board tonight.”
Cantley said he will provide an update on the situation at next month’s board meeting.
He added that that if Valley plays on WVU Tech’s field next year, it will be against his wishes.
“I’m not aware of anybody who wants to play there,” he said.
At one point last season, a sewer pipe burst and a game had to be played on half the field at Tech. Another night, a game had to be lit by the lights of a fire truck, according to Jones.
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