With the new school year hitting its stride, the Warren County School System has stepped up security measures to protect students and staff.
Bobby Cox, director of the Warren County School System, has implemented more security and more precautions in response to increased school violence across the country.
“It’s obviously very disturbing, and I never want to have to face an incident like that here,” said Cox. “I feel like we’ve done everything we can to try to prepare our buildings by putting in as many barriers as possible to make it harder to enter the school.”
Every year, Warren County receives a safety grant to add more protection to the schools.
“The last couple of years have been focused on putting in fencing at the middle school, Bobby Ray, West Elementary and some of the other schools, making sure we have fencing around all of the campuses,” said Cox.
Another safety focus is on securing the entryways to all schools. When a construction project is done, such as Irving College or at other schools, new entryways are added with more defenses.
During the summer, Hickory Creek, the high school, middle school and Dibrell had glass barriers installed to separate outsiders from entering the building and gaining access to the rest of the school.
The new doors are magnetically sealed to allow the receptionists to let visitors into the first entryway before being allowed to enter the building. Individuals requesting access into the building must first hit a button outside to be let in and then display a form of ID at the front desk.
“The goal is trying to put as many barriers between outsiders and the students,” said Cox. “This has been what we’ve been working on over the past few years.”
Every building, with the exception of Warren Academy, has at least one SRO, or school resource officer, patrolling the campus.
Warren Academy has a mobile SRO who rotates in and out of the premises. Warren County High School added a third SRO last year, Deputy Newman Ford who has been with the Warren County Sheriff’s Department for 12 years.
“I decided to take the job to help protect the kids and try to make a difference,” said Ford.
The SROs are armed officers and deputies of the Sheriff’s Department.
The officers carry guns and have been thoroughly trained on how to react during the event of a shooting. Each year the deputies have yearly trainings to keep up to date on the latest information.
McMinnville Police Department’s tactical team, or SWAT team, trains throughout the buildings after school hours to become familiar with the structures and aware of the entryways.
The Warren County School System is also involved with E-911 and all of the emergency management personnel. A meeting is held yearly to update the team on any changes in the buildings or safety plans, which are kept confidential from the public in order to avoid anyone who may try to cause harm from knowing the schools’ plans.
The correct responses to lockdown procedures, bomb threats, evacuation plans, weather-related emergencies and other dangerous situations are practiced at the beginning of each school year.
Emergency drills must be performed every year within the first month of school being in session, and fire and weather drills are required each month.
For this current year’s safety grant, Cox hopes to install barrier locks on all of the doors. In case a lockdown situation occurs, the doors will be sealed to prevent entry.
The requirement of wearing lanyards for students and faculty members is used to help those in the building identify someone who is not supposed to be on campus and report the suspicious person to the proper authorities.
While metal detectors are being used in other schools throughout the country, Cox said more research would have to be done and this might be addressed down the road.
“We’ve looked at the idea of metal detectors before and talked to people with knowledge on the subject. It’s not recommended to have those in every building,” said Cox. “The biggest thing is trying to control access from someone getting into the building with the students.”
Fencing, restricting access to the campus and having the SROs are all tactics Cox hopes will keep students and faculty members safe during this school year and in the future.