A recent drill at Lamar-Milledge Elementary in Richmond County, Georgia left school safety officials with the realization they were not prepared for a lockdown. During the drill, students were supposed to remain silent and out of sight and teachers were to have their doors locked and lights off. However, as Cpl. Jeff Tilley walked the halls he saw students in the hallway, and teachers continuing class as usual.
“None of these teachers are doing what they’re supposed to do,” said Tilley, who was named the school district’s emergency preparedness officer in September. “This is not a good sign, but this is why we’re here. We have a lot of work to do.”
A year after the deadly Newtown, Connecticut shooting, federal, state and local officials continue to discuss school safety. Richmond County is making sure their school campuses are prepared in case of a catastrophe by practicing lockdown procedures and drills for three weeks, write Tracey McManus and Wesley Brown of The Augusta Chronicle. After the first week, he realized some schools were not as prepared as they thought.
Tilley returned the day after the drill at Lamar-Milledge to discuss with the faculty the difference between soft and hard lockdowns. Soft lockdowns are issued if a threat is off campus; this requires teachers to continue teaching with doors locked. A hard lockdown means there is a threat on campus and teachers should stop activity and hide with their students.
This first time guidance was supposed to happen every year, but it was not monitored or enforced. Tilley plans on growing the exercises to four times a year and possibly once a month. There will be higher stages of alert that will consist of classes barricading themselves in rooms, and lower levels that will involve administrators securing the perimeter of the campus.
“We’re going to work on this and get better. That’s why I’m here,” Tilley said. “We are trying to make a difference.”
U.S. Rep. John Barrow supported the increased security for schools. He introduced a bill to the House of Representatives that would reinstate a $30 million federal grant that would link classroom panic buttons to police hand radios and cell phones.
“We spent millions of dollars on putting metal detectors in schools to keep people from smuggling weapons into schools, but we have nothing in the way of having the best state-of-the-art technology in schools to respond to someone invading a campus and indulging in mass murder,” Barrow said. “Kids are entitled to the same level of security judges and members of Congress get in their offices and courtrooms.”
The bill is currently still in the House Judiciary Committee. He urges local school systems to be proactive in regards to their security.